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Lightest electrically charged subatomic particle known. It carries a negative charge (seeelectric charge), the basic charge of electricity. An electron has a small mass, less than 0.1% the mass of an atom. Under normal circumstances, electrons move about the nucleus of an atom in orbitals that form an electron cloud bound in varying strengths to the positively charged nucleus. Electrons closer to the nucleus are held more tightly. The first subatomic particle discovered, the electron was identified in 1897 by J. J. Thomson.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on electron, visit Britannica.com.