Born 9 August 1797 in Putney, Surrey, son of Jonas Malden, a surgeon. He entered British naval service at age 11 on 22 June 1809. He served nine years as a volunteer 1st class, midshipman, and mate, including one year in the English Channel and Bay of Biscay (1809), four years at the Cape of Good Hope and in the East Indies (1809-14), two and a half years on the North American and West Indian stations (1814-16), and a year and a half in the Mediterranean (1817-18). He was present at the capture of Mauritius and Java, and at the battles of Baltimore and New Orleans.
He passed the examination in the elements of mathematics and the theory of navigation at the Royal Naval College on 2-4 September 1816, and became a 1st Lieutenant on 1 September 1818. In eight years of active service as an officer, he served two and a half years in a surveying ship in the Mediterranean (1818-21), one and a half years in a surveying sloop in the English Channel and on the coast of Ireland (1823-24), and one and a half years as Surveyor of the frigate Blonde during a voyage (1824-26) to and from the Sandwich Islands (Hawaii). In Hawaii he discovered and surveyed harbours which, he noted, were "said not to exist by Captains Cook and Vancouver." On the return voyage he discovered and explored uninhabited Malden Island in the central Pacific on 30 July 1825. After his return he left active service but remained at half pay. He served for several years as hydrographer to William IV.
Malden married Frances Cole, daughter of Rev. William Hodgson Cole, rector of West Clandon and vicar of Wonensh, near Guildford, Surrey, on 8 April 1828. He became the father of seven sons and a daughter.
From 1830-36 he took pupils for the Royal Navy at Ryde, Isle of Wight. He purchased the school of Henry Worsley at Newport, Isle of Wight, in December 1836, reopened it as a preparatory school on 20 February 1837, and removed it to Montpelier Road in Brighton in December 1837. He built the Windlesham House School at Brighton in 1844, and conducted the school until his death there.