What is an electron? Why does it have a negative charge?

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Atoms are composed of tiny particles called subatomic particles. The three main subatomic particles in the atom are:

  • Protons: Protons are positively charged and are located in the nucleus of the atom.
  • Neutrons: Neutrons have zero charge and are also located in the nucleus of the atom.
  • Electrons : Electrons...

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Atoms are composed of tiny particles called subatomic particles. The three main subatomic particles in the atom are:

  • Protons: Protons are positively charged and are located in the nucleus of the atom.
  • Neutrons: Neutrons have zero charge and are also located in the nucleus of the atom.
  • Electrons: Electrons are negatively charged and are located in the electron cloud that surrounds the nucleus of the atom. Electrons are extremely tiny.

The terms "positive" and "negative" were first used by Benjamin Franklin around 1750 to describe electrical charge. Two types of electrical charge were known at the time and could be observed by rubbing together different types of material. Franklin thought that one type of charge exhibited a slight excess of electricity, while the other type of charge exhibited a slight deficit of electricity. He called the electrical charge with the slight excess of electricity "positive". He called the electrical charge with the slight deficit of electricity "negative". Years later, as scientists began to better understand electricity, it became apparent that the two types of electricity would have been more accurately described if the "positive" and "negative" labels had been switched; however, at this point, switching the labels would have caused too much confusion and they were not changed. As the subatomic particles in the atom were discovered, Franklin's ideas about positive and negative charge were used to designate protons as positively charged and electrons as negatively charged.

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