WJames Edward Corbett was born in Nainital on July 25, 1875, the eighth child of British parents Christopher and Mary Jane Corbett. He spent his summers at Gurney House, his ancestral home in Nainital, while the winters were spent in Kaladhungi (40km from the Maya Resort). The house is now a museum.
Sensitive to the ways of the Kumaoni people, among whom he learned much of the ways of the jungle, their culture and language, Corbett was asked to command a 500 Kumaoni contingent in France during the First World War.
After the war he returned to the forests, often called upon to rid villages of pesky man-eating predators. A dedicated and skilled hunter, he could decipher easily the signs of the jungle. A ripple in the dust of a dry streambed or a blade of grass caught in the act of springing back from a crushed position would notify Corbett of a particular animal's presence.
When stalking, he could use the wind to his advantage, as predators do, to either conceal or reveal his person. He could freeze stock-still in midstride, he understood well several animal sounds and was able to imitate most with perfection. A tiger call, using only his vocal cords, was used often as a ploy to lure an amorous tiger for a face-to-face encounter. Two man-eaters were shot using this incredible skill.
Over the years Corbett's keen understanding of the region's rich biodiversity and the delicate relationship between man and nature inspired him to turn to wildlife conservation. So did his friendship with F.W. Champion, a pioneer in wildlife photography in India, who persuaded him to use the camera more often than the gun.
A legend in his lifetime, Corbett acquired lasting fame through his books Man-eaters of Kumaon, Man-eating Leopard of Rudraparayag, My India, Jungle Lore, The Temple Tiger and Tree Tops, each carrying detailed descriptions of his encounters with the jungle.
After World War II, he settled in Kenya with his sister Maggie. At the age of 79, Corbett succumbed to a heart attack on April 19, 1955. In his lifetime, Corbett succeeded in sparking the genesis of India's wildlife conservation movement. In 1968 the scientific community recognized his work by naming one of the five remaining subspecies of tigers, the Southeast Asian tiger after him: Panthera tigris corbett.