Percy Newberry was born in Islington, London on 23 April 1869. His mother was named Caroline Wyatt, and his father, Henry James Newberry, was a woollen warehouseman. Newberry developed a strong attachment to botany in childhood and was also an excellent artist. He studied first at King's College School and later at King's College London. In 1884, on the invitation of Reginald Stuart Poole, Newberry began administrative work at the Egypt Exploration Fund, founded just two years previously. He continued in this role until 1886, and afterwards began his own research in Egyptology. In 1891 Newberry travelled to Egypt with Howard Carter, whom Newberry had appointed as a trainee tracer, after recognising his talent as an artist. There they worked on the excavation of Beni Hasan and El-Bersheh, which Newberry led from 1890 to 1894. Newberry later served on the Tutankhamun excavation team for several seasons. His speciality was the botanical specimens from the tomb, on which he would briefly report in the second volume of Carter's The Tomb of Tut.ankh.Amen.
Newberry was appointed Brunner Professor of Egyptology (1906 to 1919), and Honorary Reader in Egyptian Art (1919 to 1949), at Liverpool University. He was also a fellow of King's College, London, (1908 to 1949), and Professor of Ancient History and Archaeology at Cairo University (1929 and 1933). He died in Godalming, Surrey, on 7 August 1949.