Corbett, Percy Ellwood
Percy Ellwood Corbett, international law scholar (b at Tyne Valley, PEI 20 Dec 1892; d at Derby Line, Vermont, 24 Oct 1983). Educated at McGill University (BA, 1913; MA, 1915) and Balliol College, Oxford (BA Jurisprudence, 1921; MA, 1925), he was twice wounded on the Western Front during WWI and was awarded the Military Cross. In 1943 he moved to Yale U as professor of government and jurisprudence, taking out American citizenship in 1948. In 1951 he joined the Centre of International Studies at Princeton, became emeritus professor, Yale, 1958, and lectured at The Hague, 1954, California, 1956, New Delhi, 1958-59. Corbett was influential throughout Canada in improving legal education, redefining the university's role in the postwar world and in developing the science of international law in Canada. An activist, he joined others in attacking the injustices of the national as well as the international political and economic systems of the day.
Corbett was widely recognized as perhaps Canada's greatest (and one of the world's leading) international law scholars, an innovative thinker whose opinions were both eagerly sought and frequently accepted. His motivation was "universal peace, always," and his objective, detailed in a long series of outstanding articles and books, notably Law and Society in the Relations of States (1951), The Growth of World Law (1971) and, with C.B. Joynt, Theory and Reality in World Politics (1978), was the creation of a new world order based more on a recognition of individuals and intergovernmental agencies than on sovereign states.
His pioneering contributions were formally recognized in 1972 when the Canadian Council on International Law presented him with its John E. Read Medal. His intellectual brilliance was matched by a warm, gracious, and engaging personality.