Courtney was born on 6 July 1832 at Penzance in Cornwall, and died in London on 11 May 1918. He was the eldest son of John Sampson Courtney, a banker, and his wife, Sarah Mortimer. Courtney began his working life in Bolitho's bank in Penzance. His outstanding mathematical abilities led to his being awarded financial assistance, and he went on to attend St John's College, Cambridge. In 1855 he was second wrangler and first Smith's Prizeman. He was also elected a fellow of the college. He went on to study law and was called to the Bar in 1858; in 1889 he became a Senior member of Lincoln's Inn. Instead of pursuing a legal career, Courtney turned to journalism and the study of politics and economics. In 1865 he became the leader writer to The Times and produced over three thousand articles between 1865 and 1881. He also contributed to the Fortnightly Review.
From The Biographical Dictionary of British Economists in Oxford Reference.