William Gurley was born in Troy, NY, March 16, 1821. He entered RPI on becoming a civil engineer and graduated in 1839. He worked for several years as a surveyor and then turned to the manufacture of surveying instruments, which at the time were called "mathematical instruments." In 1845 he founded the W. & L.E. Gurley Company.
William Gurley was as active in Troy's community affairs as he was in its industry. He was elected president of the Young Men's Association in 1851. Gurley was a trustee of the Troy Female Seminary and served as president of the board of trustees of the reorganized Emma Willard School. He served as alderman in his native ward from 1860-1864, and in 1861 was fire commissioner. He was Troy's representative to the State Legislature in 1867, and served on a number of committees. He was also president of the National Exchange Bank in 1877.
Gurley was appointed a trustee of RPI in 1855, and served as secretary from 1871-1872, vice president from 1872-1887 and acting president from 1886-1887.
William Gurley died in 1887 at Troy, NY.