Military tank design originated in the 18th century, but no one person invented the tank. The tank resulted from separate advances in technology that finally led to its creation as a vehicle for war.
The Caterpillar Track
In 1770, Richard Edgeworth of Great Britain designed the first caterpillar track, a continuous metal belt that enabled vehicles to move more easily over uneven terrain. During the Crimean War, the English, on the battlefield, used a limited number of steam-driven tractors with caterpillar tracks.
In 1899, Frederick Simms designed an internal combustion vehicle with revolving turrets with two guns and a bulletproof shell. Colonel Ernest Swinton organized a successful test of the Killen-Strait Armoured Tractor at the start of World War I. The Royal Navy, which had experience with armored cars, finally constructed a prototype tank for its first use in 1916.
World War II
The United States trailed Germany and Russia in tank development after WW I. Tanks and radio communication from tanks gave Germany a significant advantage during WW II.
Changes Since WW II
Basic tank design has not changed significantly since WW II, although communication equipment in tanks, armor guns and targeting, and crew comfort have improved. Military funding for tanks has not been reliable, as more money has been diverted to nuclear weaponry.
The Gulf War
The major American heavy tank in the 1990-1991 Gulf War, the M-1A1 Abrams, had depleted uranium armor plating that was about 2.5 times as dense as steel. Its stabilized gun mount as well as infrared vision that was effective in dust, smoke and darkness gave the United States a significant advantage over the Iraqis in the open desert, but not in urban areas.