The Bohr model of the atom, with an electron making instantaneous "quantum leaps" from one orbit to another with gain or loss of energy. This model of electrons in orbits is obsolete.

The Bohr model of the atom was the first complete physical model of the atom. It described the overall structure of the atom, how atoms bond to each other, and predicted the spectral lines of hydrogen. Bohr's model was not perfect and was soon superseded by the more accurate Schrödinger model, but it was sufficient to evaporate any remaining doubts that matter is composed of atoms. For chemists, the idea of the atom had been a useful heuristic tool, but physicists had doubts as to whether matter really is made up of atoms as nobody had yet developed a complete physical model of the atom.

The large majority of an atom's mass comes from the protons and neutrons that make it up. The total number of these particles (called "nucleons") in a given atom is called the mass number. It is a positive integer and dimensionless (instead of having dimension of mass), because it expresses a count. An example of use of a mass number is "carbon-12," which has 12 nucleons (six protons and six neutrons).