Mary Midgley, née Scrutton, was born in London, the daughter of a clergyman who served as a Cambridge University chaplain. She was educated at Downe House School, where she developed a love of philosophy and classics.
She attended Oxford University and graduated with first-class honors.
After graduation, she worked for the civil service, and as a teacher at Downe School and Bedford School. In 1947, she returned to Oxford for graduate studies, and then taught in the Philosophy Department of Reading University. In 1950, she married Geoffrey Midgley, with whom she had three children, and lived in Newcastle. She joined the Philosophy Department at Newcastle University in 1962, and taught there until she retired. She is the author of more than 15 books on science, ethics, and animal rights, including Beast and Man (1978), Evolution as a Religion (1985), Science as Salvation (1992) and Science and Poetry (2001). Her autobiography, The Owl of Minerva, was published in 2005.