In his report on "The Periodic Law of the Chemical Elements", in 1869, Mendeleev predicted the existence of several unknown elements. Among them was one which was supposed to be just bellow silicon and, for that reason, he called it eka-silicon. Mendeleev studied several minerals, although unsuccessfully, seeking for that new element 32.

In the Summer of 1885, it was found in the Himmelsfurst mine (Freiberg, Germany) a new mineral that was called argyrodite. The exact composition of this ore was unknown so that C. Winkler, a Freiberg's chemist, proposed its study. He found silver, sulfur, iron oxide, zinc and an element unknown till that time (eka-silicon). In February of 1886, Winkler was sure of the discovery of this new element that he named germanium in honor of his fatherland.