Vauquelin discovered beryllium in 1797 as a constituent of the mineral beryl. Aquamarine and emerald are the most popular varieties of this mineral. In the French language the element is referred to as glucinium. This name is derived from the sweetish taste of many of its compounds.

The first metallic beryllium was produced by Wohler and Bussy in 1828. They obtained beryllium in the form of an impure powder by reducing beryllium chloride with metallic potassium.

Of particular interest is the work of the French scientist Lebeau, published in 1899, which includes descriptions of the electrolysis of sodium-beryllium fluoride resulting in the production of small, hexagonal beryllium crystals, and the preparation of beryllium-copper alloys by direct reduction of beryllium oxide with carbon in the presence of copper. Also of interest is the work by the German scientist Oesterheld who, in 1916, published the equilibrium diagrams of beryllium with copper, aluminum, silver and iron.