Marie van Brittan Brown
African American inventor Marie Van Brittan Brown contributed to a safer society with her invention of the first home security system. Her invention was the first closed-circuit television security system and paved the way for modern home security systems used today.
Brown was born in 1922 in Jamaica, Queens, New York. She started off her career working as a nurse. Her husband, Albert Brown, was an electronics technician. As a nurse, Brown worked long hours and would return home late at night. Her husband, too, had irregular hours so she was often alone at night. Fearful of being vulnerable in a high crime neighborhood, Brown decided to figure out a way to see who was at her door if she heard knocking.
In 1966, Brown, along with the assistance of her husband, invented a security system which consisted of four peepholes, a sliding camera, television monitors, and two-way microphones. These items created a closed-circuit television system for surveillance also known as CCTV. With multiple peepholes, the sliding camera was able to capture images of people who were different heights. The two-way microphones allowed Brown to communicate with the person outside. She also had a remote that would allow her to unlock the door at a safer distance. Lastly, she could press an emergency button that would send an alarm to police or security.
In 1969, Brown and her husband received a patent for the invention under the U.S. Patent number 3,482,037. Her invention was recognized in The New York Times and she received an award from the National Scientists Committee for her work.
Brown passed away at the age of 76 in 1999, but her legacy continues. Brown’s contribution to home security led her invention to be cited in 32 subsequent patent applications. Her invention formed a system that is still relevant in today’s society with use in places such as banks, office buildings, and apartment complexes.