The History of Tree Surgery

Arborism has a long rich history. While the appreciation of trees and their beauty and fortitude have filled countless humans with wonder through the ages, the study of trees as a science began in 1901 with one man.

The Father of Tree Surgery

John Davey, the first tree surgeon, was born in Stawley, Somerset, England, in 1846. Davey’s father was the superintendent on a farm. The younger Davey learned much from his dad and grew to appreciate the land and everything that came from it.

As an adult, Davey moved to the United States, started a greenhouse, and began educating his customers via a monthly newsletter entitled “Davey’s Floral and Landscape Educator” in 1978. Two years later, he founded The Davey Tree Expert company—an organisation that is still alive and well today after over a hundred years.

The motto of Davey’s company? “Do It Right Or Not At All.” That’s a motto most of us can get behind.

In 1901, Davey published The Tree Doctor, the first book about tree care and arboriculture. With photographs explaining his methods and information about his inventions and methods, The Tree Doctor’s impact is still felt today.

Davey truly focused on tree care and tree surgery as a science. He illustrated the need for conservation and preserving forests and natural landscapes. Some of his methods, like those related to pruning, are actually still used today.

Breakthroughs in Tree Surgery

Tree surgery isn’t just felling trees properly. It’s an entire field of knowledge that includes planting trees and shrubs, caring for trees and shrubs, and, when necessary, removing trees and shrubs. Throughout its history, advances have been made to help ensure healthier lives for more trees and to increase the safety of tree removal.


How a limb or branch is trimmed or pruned can have consequences for the entire tree. Understanding this, Davey promoted a particular method of pruning, one which wasn’t put into popular use until about 25 years ago. Now it’s the go-to method for pruning a tree to ensure minimal damage is done to the tree and to increase the chances of proper healing. Improper pruning, Davey recognises, could damage a tree. By pruning in a particular way, Davey believed the tree had a better chance of recovering and prospering—and he was right.

Cable Bracing

Another of Davey’s innovations was cable bracing, a practice that persists today. In essence, cable bracing provides additional support to weak or structurally unsound trees. It can increase a tree’s life expectancy and also protect from property damage. Trees that are weakened because of age or injury may be more susceptible to further damage. For example, a large limb that has sustained a deep wound could suddenly break. However, if the wound is likely to heal, bracing provides additional support to the injured limb and creates a safer environment.

Davey didn’t always get it right, but he helped craft tree care into a science—one that can continually evolve as arborists gain more knowledge and collect more data. In addition, some aspects of tree care are safer now than they were in Davey’s time, though tree care still requires a trained professional.

Tree Surgery in Glasgow

Glasgow, with its gorgeous landscapes and unique vistas, has long been home to horticultural societies and gardening enthusiasts. Arborists and tree lovers have planted numerous trees, shaping the landscape of our beautiful city.

The Glasgow Tree Lovers’ Society was founded in 1933 and has worked for over 80 years to plant trees and provide educational opportunities to the community. Understanding that environmental knowledge is beneficial to all, the society has helped spread its love of trees by partnering with schools to plant trees and leading expeditions to map and measure trees.

While the Glasgow Tree Lovers’ Society and other arboricultural societies in the city mainly focus on the hobby of planting and caring for trees, highly-trained tree surgeons (also known as arborists or arboriculturalists) have taken that love and made it a profession.

At Premier Tree Surgeons, our love of nature, and trees specifically, have compelled us to learn more about tree surgery and arboriculture. We are highly-trained in both tree care and safety procedures. We work with both residential and commercial homeowners to keep their trees looking great and also provide removal services when necessary. If you’re in need of a tree surgeon, give us a call to schedule a quote and learn more about what we can do to keep your land beautiful.