According to EthanolHistory.com, evidence from pottery believed to have originated 9,000 years ago suggests that Neolithic people in Northern China discovered ethanol and consumed alcoholic beverages. In the first century A.D., the Greeks and the Arabs discovered distillation, a process to increase the ethanol content of alcoholic drinks.
According to EthanolHistory.com, Johann Tobias Lowitz was the first person known to obtain pure ethanol in 1796. He did this by filtering distilled alcohol through activated charcoal.
As described in EthanolHistory.com, Antoine Lavoiser knew that ethanol was made up of oxygen, hydrogen and carbon. The chemical formula, however, was discovered by Nicholas-Theodore de Saussure in the early 19th century. The structural formula of ethanol was described by Archibald Scott Couper in the 1800s.