The word aluminium derives from the Latin word for alum "alumen", an aluminium compound (aluminium potassium sulfate) known since ancient times.
In medieval medicine it was used to staunch bleeding. In 1825 the chemist Hans Christian Oersted managed to isolate – still impure – aluminium by reducing aluminium chloride with potassium. Friedrich Wöhler improved the Oersted technique and in 1827 was the first to isolate pure aluminium.
On the basis of Wöhler's reduction process Bunsen and Deville in 1854 independently developed a technique for extracting aluminium by reducing NaCl x AlCl3 with sodium – much too costly for mass production.
The opportunity to produce electrical energy on an industrial scale opened up new dimensions for the production of aluminium. In 1886 Charles M. Hall and Paul-Louis Toussaint Héroult developed the electrolytic process (Hall-Héroult-technique) which due to its cost effectiveness paved the way for a large-scale use of the light metal.