William Corbould was the son of a Ballarat tailor. He attended Ballarat College, and obtained certificates in assaying and metallurgy at the Ballarat School of Mines (SMB) in 1883, studying under the revered Professor Mica Smith. Corbould was not a born student and remembered his first experience at SMB: 'From the Registrar's Office I was led to be introduced to the Professor of Chemistry, one Mica Smith. The initial encounter gave me little encouragement - his large laboratory was filled with hundreds of bottles bearing strange labels with queer symbols on them. My heart sank. At the first opportunity I grabbed my hat and made for the door, but the good professor called me back. I pointed out that I was never any good at school ... so it was no use pretending to be clever enough to understand all those weird symbols! The Professor told me not to worry about that and took me to one of the benches where he found a blowpipe and a charcoal block. Mixing together two powders from bottles on the shelf he transferred a sample to the charcoal and directed the bunsen flame onto it. Soon it began to melt and a white bead appeared in front of my eyes. He then took a test tube and added a little colourless liquid from each of two bottles. A beautiful dark blue colour appeared. My interest was won.'
During Corbould's mining career he travelled to Europe twice, and visited most of Australia's main mining fields. Corbould started his career as an assayer at Pinnacle Silver Mine, Silverton, and was then a self-employed assayer at Broken Hill. Corbould became an assayer for the infant BHP mine, and later worked in Kalgoorlie and Coolgardie, including managing Hannan's Reward, the oldest gold mine on the Kalgoorlie gold field. He spent 13 years at the Mount Elliott copper fields as general manager. In 1923, at the age of 57, Corbould went to Mount Isa and reported on options, experimented with new metallurgical processes and floated a company. John Carden of CRA said:
'Corbould was the man who brought Urquhart to Mount Isa. He was the man who made it all possible. He is tremendously important in the Mount Isa story, because he was the first technical man, the first professional man on the scene. He was responsible as I said, for bringing finance to the place, but I think even more importantly he was the first man to recognise the need to put all the little claims in the Mount Isa discovery together. I think perhaps his major contribution to Mount Isa was this amalgamation on the various claims. He recognised that the ore bodies at Mount Isa were not as rich as Broken Hill and they would never have survived had it been fragmented, so he was terribly important.' After completing major financial negotiations for Mt Isa Mine from London in 1927 Corbould remained in Europe where he remained until his death.
Corbould was awarded the Legion of Honour of the American Institute of Mining and Metallurigical Engineers for fifty years service.
Corbould died at Monaco in 1949 at the age of 82.
A white paper certificate with black printed and handwritten text, and a blue Ballarat School of Mines seal. The certificate is signed by Andrew Berry (Registrar) and James Oddie (Vice-President).
Inscriptions & markings
Signed on the left 'W.H. Corbould'