Gurney was born at Norwood, the son of Sir John Gurney, a Baron of the Exchequer and his wife Maria Hawes daughter of William Hawes MD. He was educated at Dunham Norfolk under Mr Jowett and at Trinity College, Cambridge and was called to the bar at the Inner Temple, of which became a bencher in November 1828.
In 1845 he was made a Queen's Counsel and in 1856 was elected Recorder of London. He occasionally acted as Judge of Assize, and went the Western, Oxford, Northern, and North Wales circuits. He was a Commissioner of the Jamaica Rebellion inquiry and was sworn a member of the Privy Council in 1866, in recognition of his services. He was one of the Boundary Commissioners appointed by the Representation of the People Act 1867. He was chairman of the Law Reversionary Interest Society, deputy chairman of the Law Fire Insurance Co., and a director of the Law Life Assurance Co.
At the 1865 general election Gurney was elected as a Member of Parliament (MP) for Southampton. He held the seat until his death at the age of 73 in 1878. In parliament he was in charge of several important measures including the bill to remove defects in the Administration of the Criminal Law of 1867, the Married Women's Property Act of 1870, the Public Prosecutor's Bill of 1871, the Public Worship Regulation Act of 1874 and the UK Medical Act of 1876 (39 and 40 Vict, Ch. 41), an act which repealed the previous Medical Act in the United Kingdom and allowed all British medical authorities to license all qualified applicants whatever their gender.
Gurney married Emelia Batten (born 26 July 1823, died 1896), daughter of Rev. Ellis Batten, one of the masters of Harrow School in 1852. She was a member of the Kensington Society and her correspondence was published.
- Leigh Rayment's Historical List of MPs – Constituencies beginning with "S" (part 3)
- "Gurney, Russell (GNY821R)". A Cambridge Alumni Database. University of Cambridge.
- unknown (1918). Debretts "House of Commons and the Judicial Bench 1870" Check
- Craig, F. W. S. (1989) . British parliamentary election results 1832–1885 (2nd ed.). Chichester: Parliamentary Research Services. p. 280. ISBN 0-900178-26-4.
- British Medical Journal. British Medical Association. 1908. pp. 1079–.
- John A. Wagner Ph.D. (25 February 2014). Voices of Victorian England: Contemporary Accounts of Daily Life. ABC-CLIO. pp. 211–. ISBN 978-0-313-38689-3.
- Great Britain. Parliament. House of Commons (1892). Parliamentary Papers, House of Commons and Command. H.M. Stationery Office. pp. 40–.
- "Fellow details". Royal Society. Retrieved 22 January 2017.
- Gurney, Emilia (1902). Letters of Emelia Russell Gurney.
- Hansard 1803–2005: contributions in Parliament by Russell Gurney
|Parliament of the United Kingdom|
William Digby Seymour
William Anderson Rose
| Member of Parliament for Southampton
1865 – 1878
With: George Moffatt 1865–68
Peter Merrick Hoare 1868–74
Sir Frederick Perkins 1874–80
Sir Frederick Perkins