The second son of Thomas Corbett, a Glasgow merchant and philanthropist, and Sarah (née Cameron), he was educated at home and at the Glasgow Academy. With his older brother Thomas, he took up the offer of a world tour rather than go to university. On his return, he briefly studied sculpture in South Kensington and then managed his father's estates in Essex which he bought from his uncle after his father's death in 1880. He became one of the principal developers of the eastern suburbs of London.
An interest in philanthropy led him into politics and first contested North Warwickshire in 1884 at the age of 28. At the 1885 general election he was elected as Member of Parliament (MP) for Glasgow Tradeston, first as a Liberal and from 1886 as a Liberal Unionist. In August 1908 he crossed the floor of the House and rejoined the Liberal Party. He held Glasgow Tradeston until his retirement from the House of Commons in 1911, when he was created 1st Baron Rowallan, of Rowallan in the County of Ayr.
In 1887, he married Alice Mary Polson, a daughter of John Polson, the co-founder of the corn merchants firm of Brown & Polson. They had a daughter, Elsie Cameron, and two sons; Thomas Godfrey Polson and Arthur Cameron who joined the Royal Naval Air Service and was killed in 1916. In 1901, the Corbetts bought the 6,000 acre Rowallan Estate in Ayrshire. Their previous Scottish home at Rouken Glen was donated to the citizens of Glasgow as a public park. In 1906, he donated the Ardgoil estate to Glasgow as well. He died on 19 March 1933 and was succeeded by his son.
|Parliament of the United Kingdom|
|New constituency|| Member of Parliament
for Glasgow Tradeston
J. D. White
|Peerage of the United Kingdom|
|New constituency|| Baron Rowallan