Samuel John Stratford was born in England in 1802 and trained at St. George's and Westminster Hospitals in London as a student of George James Guthrie (1785-1856), founder of the Royal Westminster Ophthalmic Hospital. In 1828, prior to moving to Canada, Stratford published "a Manual of the Anatomy, Physiology and Diseases of the Eye and its Appendages," a book well received by the medical community and praised in the Lancet.
Stratford emigrated to Canada in 1830 and began a medical practice in Bytown (Ottawa) in 1831, where he was responsible for the Bytown Military Hospital during the cholera epidemic of 1832. In 1835, Stratford moved to Woodstock, Ontario, after receiving a land grant of 200 acres in Zorra Township from Sir John Colborne, the Lieutenant-Governor of Upper Canada. He was appointed a member of the Medical Board of Upper Canada in 1838 and practiced in Woodstock for 20 years.
Stratford moved to Toronto in 1850 as an established surgeon and oculist and practiced there for 10 years. He lectured on anatomy at the medical department of Victoria University in Toronto, known as "Rolph's School". He also established the first eye hospital in Toronto, the Toronto Dispensary for Disease of the Eye, at the corner of King St and Church St.
Stratford was controversially outspoken about many subjects including the two competing medical schools in Toronto, and called for a merger of the institutions. As editor of the Upper Canada Medical Journal of Medical, Surgical and Physical Science, Stratford had a prolonged dispute with Beaumont over the journals' publications. In 1854, one year after becoming editor, the journal ceased publication and in 1855 Stratford left Toronto. He did not return to Woodstock, as stated in several documents, rather he moved to Aukland, New Zealand, where he practiced until his death in 1871.