Neon was discovered in 1898, by Ramsay and Travers. These scientists suspected that there was a missing element in the family of the previously discovered noble gases that could justify a serious research. The fractional distillation of liquid air produced a rich mixture in helium and in other gas that was called "neon" (from the Greek "new"). The remaining oxygen and nitrogen traces were removed by chemical processes, and the neon was frozen using liquid hydrogen. At this temperature, the helium remained in the gaseous state and it was removed of the solid neon.

About 44 tons of liquid air are necessary to obtain a pound of neon. The element is chemically inert, as well as the other members of this group.