Dunning was born at Ashburton, Devon on 18 October 1731, and died at Exmouth, Devon on 18 August 1783. The son of a local attorney, he was educated at Ashburton grammar school and then articled to his father's law practice. In 1752 he came to London and studied for the bar at the Middle Temple, becoming friendly with John Home (later Home tooke). He was called to the bar in 1756, and built up a successful practice. He was employed by the directors of the East India Company in 1762 to write a legal defence of the Company against the rival Dutch East India Company, which had complained that the British company was interfering with its trade in Bengal. This document helped to make Dunning's reputation as a lawyer. He also entered political life at about this time, and in 1768 he became a member of parliament for Calne, holding this seat until his death. From 1768–70 Dunning served as solicitor-general in several governments.
From The Biographical Dictionary of British Economists in Oxford Reference.