The element was discovered in 1879, by Cleve, and was called thulium from Thul, the northest inhabited region in the world. However, it was only isolated in form of pure thulia in 1911, by James. Due to its low natural abundance, thulium was never truly available in a pure state (for example, more than 99,9% of Tm2O3) in amounts in the order of a gram, nor prepared in a metallic form, until the 50's when Spedding and its co-workers developed the techniques of reduction by ion exchange.