Benzoic acid was discovered in the 16th century. The dry distillation of gum benzoin first described by Nostradamus(1556), and subsequently by Alexius Pedemontanus (1560) and Blaise de Vigenère (1596).
Benzoic acid is produced commercially by partial oxidation of toluene with oxygen. The process is catalyzed by cobaltor manganese naphthenates. The process uses cheap raw materials, proceeds in high yield, and is considered environmentally green.
U.S. production capacity is estimated to be 126,000 tonnesper year (139,000 tons), much of which is consumed domestically to prepare other industrial chemicals.
Benzoic acid is cheap and readily available, so the laboratory synthesis of benzoic acid is mainly practiced for its pedagogical value. It is a common undergraduate preparation.
For all syntheses, benzoic acid can be purified by recrystallization from water because of its high solubility in hot water and poor solubility in cold water. The avoidance of organic solvents for the recrystallization makes this experiment particularly safe. Other possible recrystallization solvents include acetic acid (anhydrous or aqueous),benzene, petroleum ether, and a mixture of ethanol and water.