Irene Manton was born of a dentist and a descendant of French aristocracy. Hence her first name originally contained French influences, but at 18 she dropped this and opted for "Irene". Her sister was the entomologist Sidnie Manton FRS. She was educated at the Froebel Demonstration School and St. Paul's Girls' School, Hammersmith.
In 1923 she attended Girton College, Cambridge. She found Cambridge unsatisfying, in part because the university as a whole was not yet welcoming of women, and later went on to study with Gustaf Otto Rosenberg in Stockholm. She received her PhD at the University of Manchester with her thesis being on Cruciferae.
Much of her academic career was spent at the University of Leeds where she was Professor of Botany from 1946 until 1969 and Professor Emeritus thereafter  and where her focus was on ferns and algae. The work with ferns, which addressed hybridization, polyploidy, and apomixis, included her 1950 book, Problems of cytology and evolution in the pteridophyta. Her work on the algae was notable for its use of the electron microscope with her cytological work known worldwide for the structure of cilia and flagella she revealed. She was author or co-author of over 140 scientific publications.
Irene Manton bequeathed her collection of modern and oriental art to the University of Leeds. Many of these pictures hung on the walls of Botany House in the University of Leeds during her career there.
She was appointed as the first female President of the Linnean Society of London from 1973 to 1976.
In 1990 the Irene Manton Prize for the best dissertation in botany during an academic year was established by the Linnean Society.
- Manton, I., Sutherland, J., Leadbeater, BSC. "Further observations on fine structure of marine collared flagellates (Choanoflagellata) from arctic Canada and West Greenland - species of Parviorbicula and Pleurasiga." Canadian J Botany - Revue Canadienne de Botanique, Vol 54 (1976) pp 1932-1955
- Parke, M., Green JG., Manton I. "Observations on fine structure of zoids of genus Phaeocystis [Haptophyceae]." J. Marine Biol. Assc. (UK), Vol 51 (1971) pp 927-
- Manton, I., Kowallik, K., Stosch, HAV. " Observations on fine structure and development of spindle at mitosis and meiosis in a marine centric diatom (Lithodesmium undulatum) 4. Second meiotic division and conclusion." J Cell Science, Vol 7 (1970) pp 407 -
- Manton, I., Leedale, GF. " Observations of microanatomy of Coccolithus pelagicus and Cricosphaera carterae with special reference to origin and nature of coccoliths and scales." J Marine Biol Asscn (UK), Vol 49 (1969) pp 1 -
- Provasol, L., Yamasu, T., MantonI. " Experiments on resynthesis of symbiosis in Convoluta roscoffensis with different flagellate cultures." Marine Biol Asscn (UK), Vol 48 (1968) pp 465 -
- Manton, I. " Observations on fine structure of 2 species of Platymonas with special reference to flagellar scales and mode of origin of theca." J. Marine Biol Asscn (UK), Vol 45 (1965) pp 743 -
- Manton, I. " Observations on fine structure of zoospore and young germlings of Stigeoclonium." J. Exp. Botany, Vol 15 (1964) pp 399 -
- Manton, I., Parke, M. "Further observations on small green flagellates with special reference to possible relatives of Chromulina pusilla Butcher." J. Marine Biol Asscn (UK), Vol 39 (1960) pp 275 -
- Parke, M., Manton, I., Clarke, B., "Studies on marine flagelllates 2. 3 new species of Chrysochromulina." J. Marine Biol Asscn (UK), Vol 34 (1955) pp 579 -
- Manton, I., Clarke, B. "An electron microscopic study of the spermatozoid of Sphagnum." J Exp. Botany, Vol 3 (1952) pp 265- DOI: 10.1093/jxb/3.3.265
- Manton, I., Clarke, B., Greenwood AD. "Observations with the electron microscope on a species of Saprolegnia." J. Exp. Botany, Vol 2 (1951) pp 321 -
- Manton, I. "The spiral structure of chromasomes." Biol Reviews Cambridge Philosophical Society, Vol 25 (1950) pp 486 - 508. DOI: 10.1111/j.1469-185X.1950.tb00770.x
- Manton, I. "New evidence on the telophase split in Todea barbara." American J. Botany, Vol 32 (1945) pp 342-348 DOI: 10.2307/2437168
- Manton, I, "Introduction to the general cytology of the Cruciferae." Annals of Botany, Vol 46 (1932) pp 509-556
- Preston, Reginald Dawson (1990). "Irene Manton. 17 April 1904-13 May 1988". Biographical Memoirs of Fellows of the Royal Society 35: 248. doi:10.1098/rsbm.1990.0011.
- University of Leeds, Reporter 420, 11 May 1998
- Linnean Society biography
- "Lists of Royal Society Fellows 1660-2007". London: The Royal Society. Retrieved 14 July 2010.
- "Book of Members, 1780–2010: Chapter M". American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Retrieved 22 July 2014.
- "Author Query for 'Manton'". International Plant Names Index.