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The first real "scientific" view of the atom was held by John Dalton in the late 1880s. He thought that atoms were small, spherical, solid objects, like really tiny marbles. HE also theorized that there was "no finer structure" inside an atom: a single atom was an indivisible piece of matter, with no smaller pieces inside it.
The discovery of the electron about 10 years later (by use of the cathode ray tube, and others), put a complication in Dalton's claim of "indivisibility". It demonstrated that atoms COULD be shown to be made up of smaller pieces, namely one negatively charged piece that would attract to a magnet.
The discovery of the electron showed that Dalton's model of the atom was a good start, but was lacking in detail. It allowed people to ask "what next", "what other pieces" might be inside the atom. And we get the protons, neutrons, and other subatomic particles as a consequence of this discovery.