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A simplified model of an atom, specifically boron B, comprised of a nucleus, made of protons (+), with positive charge, and neutrons, no charge, around which electrons (-) charged negative, rotate in orbitals.

In science, electron (TR:156) (LH:5) (TL:161), symbol e⁻, is a lepton, one of the four types of fermions (quarks, leptons, antiquarks, and antileptons), with charge of -1e, a rest mass of 9.11E-31 kg (0.511 MeV), an electric charge of -1.60E-19 coulombs, a spin of ½, is considered an elementary particle, and characterized as obeying Fermi-Dirac statistics; it is the negatively charged particle that surrounds the nucleus of atoms, attracted to the positively charged proton.[1] The term electron was coined in 1891 by Johnstone Stoney.


In 1913, Niels Bohr, in his “On the Constitution of Atoms”, proposed that electrons orbit a small positively charged nucleus (Rutherford, 1911) of the atom in discrete orbital regions.[2]


The following is a 3D visual of what electrons look like in the form of orbitals around hydrogen-like atoms:[3]

Electron orbitals.png


A video animation showing how different elements are made by adding one electron and one proton (and neutrons) at a time.

In 1874, Johnstone Stoney stated that there is a certain quantity of electricity involved when bonds break:

“For each chemical bond which is ruptured within an electrolyte a certain ‘quantity of electricity’ traverses the electrolyte which is the same in all cases.”
— Johnstone Stoney (1874), “On the Physical Units of Nature”

Stoney, during this period was using the term ‘electrine’, supposedly, for the electric quantity.[4]

In 1881, Stoney employed the term electrolion for "quantity of electricity".[5]

In 1891, Stoney introduced the term electron as follows:[6]

“Attention must be given to Faraday's law of electrolysis, which is equivalent to the statement that in electrolysis a definite quantity of electricity, the same in all cases, passes for each chemical bond that is ruptured. The author called attention to this form of the law in a communication made to the British Association in 1874 and printed in the Scientific Proceedings of the Royal Dublin Society of February, 1881, and in the Philosophical Magazine (pgs. 385 and 386) for May, 1881. It is there shown that the amount of this very remarkable quantity of electricity is about the twentiethet () of the usual electromagnetic unit of electricity, i.e., the unit of the Ohm series. This is the same as 3 eleventhets () of the much smaller C.G.S. electrostatic unit of quantity. A charge of this amount is associated in the chemical atom with each bond. There may accordingly be several such charges in one chemical atom, and there appear to be at least two in each atom. These charges, which it will be convenient to call ‘electrons’, cannot be removed from the atom, but they become disguised when atoms chemically unite. If an electron be lodged at the point P of the molecule which undergoes the motion described in the last chapter, the revolution of this charge will cause an electromagnetic undulation in the surrounding ether.”

In 1906, someone had suggested that cathode ray particles be called “electrions”. On this matter, Hendrik Lorentz gave his opinion that the term “electrons” should be used, after which the term electrons became widely used.[5]

Of note, some have conjectured that Stoney had the term electric ion in mind when he coined the term electron, namely from Greek elektron- "amber" (Gilbert, 1600), + -ion, "going charge" (Faraday, 1834)[7][8]


The following are related quotes:

“Perhaps our genius for unity will some time produce a science so broad as to include the behavior of a group of electrons and the behavior of a university faculty, but such a possibility seems now so remote that I for one would hesitate to guess whether this wonderful science would be more like mechanics or like a psychology.”
Gilbert Lewis (1925), Anatomy of Science (pg. #)
Life is interposed between two energy levels of an electron.”
Albert Gyorgyi (c.1960), Source; cited by Mae-Wan Ho (1993) in The Rainbow and the Worm (pg. ix) [9]

End matter

See also


  1. Gribbin, John. (1998). Q is for Quantum: an Encyclopedia of Particle Physics (pg. 119). Simon & Schuster.
  2. Bohr, Niels. (1913). “On the Constitution of Atoms” (txt), Philosophical Magazine, 26(1):476.
  3. Electron shell – Wikipedia.
  4. Mulvihill, Mary. (2011). “The Man who ‘Invented’ the Electron” (Ѻ), Ingenious Ireland, Feb 15.
  5. 5.0 5.1 Okamura, Sogo. (1994). History of Electron Tubes (pg. 11). IOS Press.
  6. (a) Stoney, George. (1891). “Elementary Quantity of Electricity”, Scientific Transactions of the Royal Dublin Society, 4(11):563.
    (b) Millikan, Robert. (1917). The Electron: its Isolation and Measurement and Determination of Some of its Properties (§2.1: the Origin of the Word Electron, pgs. 25-26). Publisher.
  7. Ion – EtymOnline.com.
  8. Electron – OED.com.
  9. Ho, Mae-Won. (1993). The Rainbow and the Worm: the Physics of Organism (pg. ix). World Scientific, 1998.

Further reading

External links

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