David Roberts McMurtry was born in March 1940, in Clontarf, Ireland. He was brought up in Dublin and educated at Mountjoy School in Dublin.
McMurtry joined Bristol Aero Engines as an apprentice in 1958. In 1966, following an acquisition, he found himself employed by Rolls-Royce plc where he became Deputy Chief Designer and Assistant Chief of Engine Design at Filton. In 1973, while working on Concorde's engines, he designed his first trigger probe.
In 1979 McMurtry joined his former colleague John Deer to set up Renishaw plc. In 1987 he acquired the patents for his trigger probes from Rolls-Royce plc and began to exploit the patents himself.
He was awarded the CBE in 1994 and was knighted in the 2001 New Year Honours.
McMurty received an honorary doctorate from Heriot-Watt University in 1998.