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The electron is a subatomic particle. It has a negative electric charge of -1.6 × 10-19 coulombs, and a mass of about 9.10 × 10-31 kg (0.51 MeV/c2).

The electron is commonly represented as e. The antiparticle of the electron is the positron, which is identical to an electron but has positive electrical charge.

Atoms consist of a nucleus of protons and neutrons surrounded by electrons. Electrons are very light compared to the other two types of particles: a proton is about 1800 times as heavy as an electron.

The electron is one of a class of subatomic particles called leptons which are believed to be fundamental particles (that is, they cannot be broken down into smaller constituent parts). The electron has spin 1/2, which implies it is a fermion, i.e., follows the Fermi-Dirac statistics.

Table of contents
1 History
2 Technical details
3 Electricity
4 See also
5 External links


The electron had been posited by G. Johnstone Stoney, as a unit of charge in electrochemistry, but Thompson realised that it was also a subatomic particle.

The electron was discovereded by J.J. Thomson in 1897 at the Cavendish Laboratory at Cambridge University, while studying "cathode rays." Influenced by the work of James Clerk Maxwell, and the discovery of the X-ray, he deduced that cathode rayss existed and were negatively charged "particles", which he called "corpuscles".

Technical details

The electron is described in quantum mechanics by the Dirac Equation.

In the Standard Model it forms a doublet in SU(2) with the electron neutrino, as they interact through the weak interaction. The electron has two more massive partners, with the same charge but different masses: the muon and the tau.


When electrons move, free of the nuclei of atoms, and there is a net flow, this flow is called electricity, or an electric current. This might be compared to a flock of sheep moving north together, while the shepherds do not. Electric charge can be directly measured with an electrometer. Electric current can be directly measured with a galvanometer.

So-called "static electricity" is not a flow of electrons at all. More correctly called a "static charge", it refers to a body that has more or fewer electrons than are required to balance the positive charge of the nuclei. When there is an excess of electrons, the object is said to be "negatively charged". When there are fewer electrons than protons, the object is said to be "positively charged". When the number of electrons and the number of protons are equal, the object is said to be electrically "neutral".

See also

External links