Sir Pulteney Malcolm was born February 20, 1768, to George Malcolm and his wife Margaret (née Pasley) at Burnfoot, Langholm, in Dumfriesshire, Scotland. In 1778, he joined the Royal Navy as a midshipman at the age of ten, aboard a ship captained by his uncle, Thomas Pasley. During his time as midshipman, Malcolm saw action at Porto Prayo, and travelled to the West Indies. Promoted to lieutenant in 1783, Malcolm spent time at the Jamaica Station under Bartholomew Rowley, where he assisted in capturing the frigate Inconstante . Malcolm served as commander of the Jack Tar, and then as post-captain at various posts in the North Sea and the East Indies.
During the Napoleonic Wars, Malcolm served with Lord Nelson in the Mediterranean in 1805, assisting in the blockade of Toulon, and participating in the pursuit of the French fleet to the West Indies in 1805. Though he missed the Battle of Trafalgar, shortly afterwards Malcolm captured the Spanish vessel El Reyo , and returned to the West Indies, where he fought in the Battle of St. Domingo in 1806. In 1812, Malcolm was captain in the Channel fleet under Lord Keith, who was the uncle of his wife, Clementina. The next year, Malcolm was promoted to rear-admiral, and in 1814, with the Royal Oak as his flagship, Malcolm sailed to North America. During the War of 1812, Malcolm served under Sir Alexander Cochrane and Sir George Cockburn, and participated in the attack on Washington, D.C., the Battle of Baltimore, and the Battle of New Orleans.
At the end of the war, Malcolm returned to Europe, where he provided naval support in the North Sea for the Duke of Wellington. After Napoleon’s exile to St. Helena, Malcolm became commander-in-chief of the St. Helena station from 1816 to 1817, where he guarded Napoleon and maintained a blockade of the island. In 1821, he was promoted to vice admiral, and served as commander-in-chief of the Mediterranean from 1828-1831, and again from 1833-34. In 1837, Malcolm was promoted to Admiral of the Blue.
In 1809, Malcolm married Clementina Elphinstone, with whom he had two sons, George (who predeceased him) and William. Malcolm died July 20, 1838.