Revere Babcock Gurley, 78, a patent lawyer in private practice who retired from the U.S. Patent Office in 1957, died of cancer Friday at George Washington University Hospital.

Mr. Gurley joined the Patent Office in 1923 as a patent examiner and retired as a division chief. He than practiced patent law independently and was currently with the firm of Quaintance. Murphy and Richardson of Arlington, where he was a counsel.

He was born in Philadelphia and grew up in Garrett Park. He graduated from Central High School in Washington and then served as a radio operator in the Merchant Marine. Later he attended the University of Maryland. While working for the Patent Office he earned a degree from the Washington College of Law, now part of American University.

During World War II, Mr. Gurley moved with the Patent Office to Richmond, returning here in 1946. He had lived in Arlington since then.

He was a member of the American Patent Law Association and a former president of Sigma Nu Phi legal fraternity.

He is survived by his wife, the former Margaret Carrington, of Arlington; three sons, Joseph Grafton of Los Angeles, John Carrington of Fredericksburg, Va., and Revere Williams of Wheaton; two daughters, Elaine King of Arlington, and Charlotte Mattern of Warrenton, Va.; three sisters, Josephine Longenberger of Port Arthur, Tex., Katherine Neumeier of Walla Walla, Wash., and Leila V. Gurley of Washington; 14 grandchildren and one great-grandchild.