James W. Stroud qualified as a surgeon-dentist in the United States. He practiced in Plymouth, England, for some time, but to improve his wife's health emigrated to South Africa around 1860. After a brief spell in Kimberley he set up shop in Donkin Street, Port Elizabeth, where he was practicing by 1880, though much of his time was spent on visits all over the Eastern Cape. At this time his qualifications were listed as Doctor of Medicine (MD) and Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS) (Laidler & Gelfand, 1971, p. 506 n44). Later the South African Medical Directory (1897) gave his qualifications as Doctor of Medicine (MD), as did his obituary. According to the Staats-almanak der Zuid-Afrikaansche Republiek for 1896 (p.99) this qualification was obtained in America in 1850 - when he was only 18 years old. This unlikely claim was repeated in his biography in the Dictionary of South African biography (1987). Whatever his formal qualifications may have been, he was licenced to practice as a dentist in the Cape Colony on 2 August 1883 on the grounds that he had been in practice before 22 July 1878, when the Dentist Act came into force in England. After the death of his first wife, Mary Smith, with whom he had eight children, he married Frances S. Forrest, with whom he had two more. He was an active and popular person who built up a successful dental practice and found time for various scientific pursuits.
In May 1883 Stroud was elected a member of the Eastern Province Naturalists' Society and in October that year delivered a paper before its members on the honey bee. This paper was probably his most important contribution to science and was the only paper that the society ever published. "The honey bee (Apis mellifica): its natural history and management" appeared in the Transactions of the Eastern Province Naturalists' Society, 1884, No. 1, pp. 5-66. An appendix to the paper and a glossary were published in Port Elizabeth the next year. Another paper that he read before the society dealt with scab insects (1886). He also produced a paper on the nervous system of the Articulata (now called Testicardines, a class of marine invertebrates belonging to the Brachiopoda, or Lamp Shells). This paper was printed, as there were some copies in the society's library.
In the agricultural sphere one of his interests was in ostrich breeding. Around 1883 he wrote a paper on "Ostronization; or, the caponizing of the ostrich" which was published in Port Elizabeth and was to be read before the Upper Albany Farmers' Association. He furthermore contributed two essays to The South African Exhibition, Port Elizabeth, 1885; lectures, prizes and other essays... (1886), one on "The principles of agricultural science: How far such a subject can be taught in the ordinary school course" (pp. 95-108), the other on "Agricultural science and its application to the conditions of the colony" (pp. 109-138). For the latter essay he was awarded a gold medal by the executive committee of the exhibition.
Around 1886 Stroud moved to Pretoria and remained there for the rest of his life. From that year until the outbreak of the Anglo-Boer War (1899-1902) he served on the Geneeskundige Commissie (Health Commission) of the South African Republic, chaired by Dr G.B.W. Messum*. He was registered as a surgeon-dentist in the Transvaal in 1887. Early in that year he wrote an article in the Transvaal Observer in which he supported inoculation against horse-sickness, returning to the same topic in a newspaper article published in February 1892 and in letters to the press in 1897. In October 1887 he registered a patent with the government for the "Excelsior chlorinating process", used to extract gold from its ore. As an enthusiastic supporter of the scientific approach to the study of nature he wrote several popular scientific articles.
At the height of the rinderpest epidemic in November 1896 Stroud wrote to the government of the Republic and to the Rinderpest Commission of the Cape Colony, advocating inoculation against the disease. As a result he was appointed on the government's delegation (which included Dr A. Theiler*) sent to interview Dr Robert Koch* in Kimberley and examine his bile-serum method of inoculation against the disease. Towards the end of that year he became administrator of stores for the newly established Transvaalsche Roode Kruis (Transvaal Red Cross). In 1898, following an outbreak of smallpox, the government put him in charge of a smallpox hospital at Daspoort, Pretoria.
Stroud was an early member of the South African Association for the Advancement of Science. According to its 1903 membership list he was a Fellow of both the Linnean Society and the Geological Society of London. After given up his dental practice he spent some of his time drawing and painting and worked in the Pretoria Public Library. He died of a stroke.