Cadmium was discovered in 1817 by F. Strohmeyer, a professor of metallurgy at Goettingen, Germany. While investigating some zinc carbonate, Strohmeyer found that the compound, upon heating, was yellow instead of white, and he concluded from further tests that the color was due to a previously unknown oxide. Separating some of this metallic oxide from the zinc carbonate by careful precipitation with hydrogen sulfide, he subsequently reduced it to metal. Strohmeyer named the metal cadmium from "cadmia", a term for calamine (zinc carbonate)

At about the same time K. S. Hermann separated a similar sulfide from some Silesian zinc ore and sent it to Strohmeyer, who identified it as the sulfide of the same metal which he had just discovered.