Left fatherless at five years of age, John Corliss grew up to be independent. He became a sailor at the age of 16 and served in the American Civil War. He became a Freewill Baptist in 1866 and a Seventh-day Adventist in 1868. He lived with the Whites for a time and was tutored by Joseph Bates.
In 1868 he became the chaplain and superintendent of the Western Health Reform Institute in Battle Creek, Michigan, and later conducted evangelistic campaigns in Michigan, Maine, Virginia, Colorado and California.
With S N Haskell, he pioneered the work of the Church in Australia (1885-1887) and won many converts in the face of strong opposition. He was particularly successful with business and professional people and in getting entire families to make a decision for the Adventist faith. He was an editor for the Bible Echo, supporting it from his personal finances. After spending time in California recovering from a period of poor health he returned to Australia for another term of service (1893-1896). He taught Bible to the nurses at Battle Creek Sanitarium and worked in Canada (1898-1899) before spending most of his remaining life in California, except for two years in England (1902-1904). He used most of his inheritance to sponsor students through their studies and to support other Church projects.
The above is a synopsis of the entry in the SDA Encyclopedia.