Verran is from New South Wales, Australia (born c1945/6?). She trained as a scientist and teacher in the 1960s (BSc, DipEd, University of New England and has a PhD in metabolic biochemistry (UNE, 1972). She then spent eight years lecturing in science education at Obafemi Awolowo University in Ile-Ife, southwestern Nigeria. In the 1980s she became lecturer and later Associate Professor at the University of Melbourne, working in a unit dedicated to the study of history and philosophy of science. She retired in 2012. On retiring she became Adjunct Professor at the Northern Institute, Charles Darwin University in Darwin, NT, Australia where she still teaches.
Verran is best known for her book, Science and an African Logic (University of Chicago Press, 2001). It analyses counting, and its relation to social ontology based on her lengthy field observations as a mathematics lecturer and teacher in Nigeria. She describes her sudden realisation of the radically different nature of Yoruba counting.
Her work from the 1990s has been of Yolngu Aboriginal Australians understandings of the world, their use of technology, and their knowledge systems.