Rhenium was discovered by the German chemists Ida Tacke-Noddack, Walter Noddack and Otto Carl Berg in 1925. They detected rhenium spectroscopically in platinum ores and in the minerals columbite, gadolinite and molybdenite. In 1928, Noddack and Berg were able to extract 1 gram of rhenium from 660 kilograms of molybdenite. Today, rhenium is obtained as a by-product of refining molybdenum and copper.
Its name is derived from Rhenus, the Latin name for the Rhine.