The word perfume derives from the Latin 'perfumare', which means "to smoke through". The art of making perfumes, perfumery, began in Egypt, in ancient Mesopotamia,and possibly Ancient China. The Romans and Muslims further refined the art. The world's first-recorded chemist is probably a woman named Tapputi, a perfume maker from Mesopotamia, mentioned in a cuneiform tablet from the 2nd millennium BC. She distilled oil, flowers, and calamus with other aromatic ingredients, filtered them and put them back in the still several times.
The world's oldest surviving perfumes were uncovered by archaeologists in 2003 in Pyrgos, Cyprus. These perfumes date back more than 4,000 years. They were found in an ancient perfumery, a 3,230 sq ft (300-square-meter) factory housing at least 60 stills, funnels, mixing bowls, and antique perfume bottles. In ancient times people used herbs and spices, such as coriander, almond, myrtle, conifer resin, and bergamot, as well as flowers.
The art of perfumery was presumably known in western Europe from 1221, taking into account the monks' recipes of Santa Maria delle Vigne or Santa Maria Novella of Florence, Italy. In the east, the Hungarians produced around 1370 a perfume made of scented oils blended in an alcohol solution – best known as Hungary Water – at the behest of Queen Elizabeth of Hungary. The art of perfumery prospered in Renaissance Italy, and in the 16th century the personal perfumer to Catherine de' Medici (1519–1589), René the Florentine, took Italian refinements to France. His laboratory was connected with her apartments by a secret passageway, so that no formulae could be stolen en route. Thanks to Rene, France quickly became one of the European centers of perfume and cosmetics manufacture. Cultivation of flowers for their perfume essence, which had begun in the 14th century, grew into a major industry in the south of France.
Read more about the history of perfume at Wikipedia.