Ronald Wilfred (or Wilfrid) Gurney was born in 1898 in Cheltenham.
He became a theoretical physicist as a pupil of William Lawrence Bragg at the Victoria University of Manchester during the 1920s, where he joined the Communist Party.
During the 1930s, he was at Bristol University, there in 1933 he and his wife Natalie became acquainted with Klaus Fuchs, a member of the German Communist Party, shortly after he had escaped with his life from the Nazis. Natalie Gurney was particularly active in the Society for Cultural Relations with the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.
Fuchs was close to the couple until 1937 and would meet again in November 1947 in Chicago. Fuchs later became notorious by being prosecuted for providing details of atomic research to the Soviet Union.
Gurney was working in the USA when war broke out in 1939. His attempt to return to Britain took him to Sweden, through the Soviet Union to Japan and then back to the USA where he worked for many years. He was unable to find work during the anti-communist fever of McCarthyism.
Eventually becoming Visiting Research Professor at the University of Maryland’s Institute of Fluid Dynamics and Applied Mathematics, Ronald Gurney died of a cerebral haemorrhage at his home in New York City on 14 April 1953.