He was educated at Cupar Grammar School, where he was a contemporary of the artist Sir David Wilkie, and studied medicine at St Andrews University and Edinburgh University before he became a surgeon's mate for the East India Company. He decided to quit this profession because he hated the whippings he was obliged to attend, and because he was attracted to the commercial possibilities of shipping.
In 1807 he sailed to New South Wales as supercargo of the ship 'City of Edinburgh'. While the vessel was unloading, news came throught of the masacre of the crew and passengers of the ship 'Boyd' by aborigines. The ship, with Berry, set sail for Whangoroa where he played a significant role in the aftermath of the massacre.
Shortly after he sailed east but was forced to abandon his vessel off the Azores and make his way to Lisbon, Spain. It was in Cadiz that he met Edward Wollstonecraft, with whom he formed a partnership in 1819.
The two men returned to Sydney, Australia and sought a land grant. After Berry had investigated the Shoalhaven area, they took up a run there in 1822. The land grant was awarded and Berry set up the Coolangatta Estate while Wollstonecraft stayed in Sydney to look after business there.
He was a member of the Philosophical Society in 1821 and a councillor on the Australian Philosophical Society.
Some people believe that Bery, possibly Australia's first millionaire, a generous benefactor and founder of the dairy industry in New South Wales, has not received adequate recognition, neither in his native Scotland nor in Australia, for his pioneering and entrepreneurial drive. The magnitude of his achievements in relation to his age and time have been allowed to slip away quietly into the collective historical memory.
Through Alexander Berry's will to his brother David the probate value of the Estate he created was £1,252,975 sterling; an enormous sum by today's standards. (Probably equivalent to £66,407,675.00 in today's 2003 values or in Australian dollars $166,020,000).
In 1887 St Andrews used a huge £100,000 sterling legacy from Berry's will to establish the Berry Chair of English Literature, which still continues today. Berry request is believed to have saved this world famous university, recently attended by Prince William, from financial ruin.