Question: What does 'electronic theory' refer to?

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The hypothesis that Thomson's corpuscles or particles composing the cathode discharge in a high vacuum tube must be looked upon as the ultimate constituent of what we call negative electricity; in other words, they are atoms of negative electricity, possessing, however, inertia, and these negative electrons are components at any rate of the chemical atom. Each electron is a point-charge of negative electricity equal to 3.9×10^{-10} of an electrostatic unit or to 1.3×10^{-20} of an electromagnetic unit, and the ratio of its charge to its mass is nearly 2×10^7 using E.M. units. For the hydrogen atom the ratio of charge to mass as deduced from electrolysis is about 10^4. Hence the mass of an electron is 1/2000th of that of a hydrogen atom. No one has yet been able to isolate positive electrons, or to give a complete demonstration that the whole inertia of matter is only electric inertia due to what may be called the inductance of the electrons. Prof. Sir J. Larmor developed in a series of very able papers, and subsequently in his book "Aether and Matter," a remarkable hypothesis of the structure of the electron or corpuscle, which he regards as simply a strain center in the aether or electromagnetic medium, a chemical atom being a collection of positive and negative electrons or strain centers in stable orbital motion round their common center of mass. J.J. Thomson also developed this hypothesis in a profoundly interesting manner, and we may therefore summarize very briefly the views held on the nature of electricity and matter at the beginning of the 20th century by saying that the term electricity had come to be regarded, in part at least, as a collective name for electrons, which in turn must be considered as constituents of the chemical atom, furthermore as centers of certain lines of self-locked and permanent strain existing in the universal aether or electromagnetic medium. Atoms of matter are composed of congeries of electrons and the inertia of matter is probably therefore only the inertia of the electromagnetic medium. Electric waves are produced wherever electrons are accelerated or retarded, that is, whenever the velocity of an electron is changed or accelerated positively or negatively. In every solid body there is a continual atomic dissociation, the result of which is that mixed up with the atoms of chemical matter composing them we have a greater or less percentage of free electrons. The operation called an electric current consists in a diffusion or movement of these electrons through matter, and this is controlled by laws of diffusion which are similar to those of the diffusion of liquids or gases. Electromotive force is due to a difference in the density of the electronic population in different or identical conducting bodies, and whilst the electrons can move freely through so-called conductors their motion is much more hindered or restricted in non-conductors. Electric charge consists, therefore, in an excess or deficit of negative electrons in a body. In the hands of H.A. Lorentz, P.K.L. Drude, J. J, Thomson, J. Larmor and many others, the electronic hypothesis of matter and of electricity has been developed in great detail and may be said to represent the outcome of modern researches upon electrical phenomena.

An admirable summary of the theories of electricity prior to the advent of the electronic hypothesis to J.J. Thomson's "Report on Electrical Theories," in which he divides electrical theories enunciated during the 19th century into four classes, and summarizes the opinions and theories of A.M. Ampère, H.G. Grassman, C.F. Gauss, W.E. Weber, G.F.B. Riemann, R.J.E. Clausius, F.E. Neumann and H. von Helmholtz.
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