„One has been led to the conception of electrons, i. e. of extremely small particles, charged with electricity, which are present in immense numbers in all ponderable bodies, and by whose distribution and motions we endeavor to explain all electric and optical phenomena that are not confined to the free ether.... according to our modern views, the electrons in a conducting body, or at least a certain part of them, are supposed to be in a free state, so that they can obey an electric force by which the positive particles are driven in one, and the negative electrons in the opposite direction. In the case of a non-conducting substance, on the contrary, we shall assume that the electrons are bound to certain positions of equilibrium. If, in a metallic wire, the electrons of one kind, say the negative ones, are travelling in one direction, and perhaps those of the opposite kind in the opposite direction, we have to do with a current of conduction, such as may lead to a state in which a body connected to one end of the wire has an excess of either positive or negative electrons. This excess, the charge of the body as a whole, will, in the state of equilibrium and if the body consists of a conducting substance, be found in a very thin layer at its surface.
In a ponderable dielectric there can likewise be a motion of the electrons. Indeed, though we shall think of each of them as haying a definite position of equilibrium, we shall not suppose them to be wholly immovable. They can be displaced by an electric force exerted by the ether, which we conceive to penetrate all ponderable matter... the displacement will immediately give rise to a new force by which the particle is pulled back towards its original position, and which we may therefore appropriately distinguish by the name of elastic force. The motion of the electrons in non-conducting bodies, such as glass and sulphur, kept by the elastic force within certain bounds, together with the change of the dielectric displacement in the ether itself, now constitutes what Maxwell called the displacement current. A substance in which the electrons are shifted to new positions is said to be electrically polarized.
Again, under the influence of the elastic forces, the electrons can vibrate about their positions of equilibrium. In doing so, and perhaps also on account of other more irregular motions, they become the centres of waves that travel outwards in the surrounding ether and can be observed as light if the frequency is high enough. In this manner we can account for the emission of light and heat. As to the opposite phenomenon, that of absorption, this is explained by considering the vibrations that are communicated to the electrons by the periodic forces existing in an incident beam of light. If the motion of the electrons thus set vibrating does not go on undisturbed, but is converted in one way or another into the irregular agitation which we call heat, it is clear that part of the incident energy will be stored up in the body, in other terms [words] that there is a certain absorption. Nor is it the absorption alone that can be accounted for by a communication of motion to the electrons. This optical resonance, as it may in many cases be termed, can likewise make itself felt even if there is no resistance at all, so that the body is perfectly transparent. In this case also, the electrons contained within the molecules will be set in motion, and though no vibratory energy is lost, the oscillating particles will exert an influence on the velocity with which the vibrations are propagated through the body. By taking account of this reaction of the electrons we are enabled to establish an electromagnetic theory of the refrangibility of light, in its relation to the wave-length and the state of the matter, and to form a mental picture of the beautiful and varied phenomena of double refraction and circular polarization.
On the other hand, the theory of the motion of electrons in metallic bodies has been developed to a considerable extent.... important results that have been reached by Riecke, Drude and J. J. Thomson... the free electrons in these bodies partake of the heat-motion of the molecules of ordinary matter, travelling in all directions with such velocities that the mean kinetic energy of each of them is equal to that of a gaseous molecule at the same temperature. If we further suppose the electrons to strike over and over again against metallic atoms, so that they describe irregular zigzag-lines, we can make clear to ourselves the reason that metals are at the same time good conductors of heat and of electricity, and that, as a general rule, in the series of the metals, the two conductivities change in nearly the same ratio. The larger the number of free electrons, and the longer the time that elapses between two successive encounters, the greater will be the conductivity for heat as well as that for electricity.“

—  Hendrik Antoon Lorentz, Ch. I General principles. Theory of free electrons, pp. 8-10
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niederländischer Mathematiker und Physiker, Nobelpreis fü... 1853 - 1928
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