Pectin has been recognised for at least 200 years and was originally identified in 1790 in apples by the French chemist Nicholas Vauquelin (who also discovered the elements chromium and beryllium). It was not until 1824 that further work on pectin was undertaken by Braconnot who named the acid, gelling substance pectic acid after the Greek word for gelling or congealing. In 1924 Smolenski identified the gelling substance as a polymer of galacturonic acid and later on in the 1937 Schneider and Bock established the basic formula of pectin.
Today pectin is recognised as a complex polymer that is present in many plants as a component of the middle lamella. Pectin is used extensively in the food industry as a gelling agent and is the key gelling agent in jam manufacture which is still one of the biggest markets for pectin.