Marie Van Brittan Brown

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Marie Van Brittan Brown
Born (1922-10-30)30 October 1922
Jamaica, Queens, New York
Died 2 February 1999(1999-02-02) (aged 76)
Jamaica, Queens, New York
Known for Creation of home security systems
Spouse(s) Albert Brown

Marie Van Brittan Brown (October 30, 1922 – February 2, 1999) was an African-American inventor, becoming the originator of the home security system ( U.S. Patent 3,482,037) in 1966, along with her husband Albert Brown, a patent was granted in 1969. Brown was born in Jamaica, Queens, New York;[1] she died there at the age of 76.


Marie Van Brittan Brown's father was born in Massachusetts and her mother's roots originated from Pennsylvania.[2] Brown and her husband lived at 151-158 & 135th Avenue in Jamaica, Queens, New York.[3] She worked as a nurse and her husband was an electronics technician, so they did not always normal hours or simultaneously work.[4] Marie and Albert Brown had two children. Their daughter Norma[5] followed in her mother's footsteps and became a nurse as well as creator of her own inventions.[2]


Brown cited the inspiration for her invention as the long time it would take for police to arrive at a house after being called by residents.[1] Brown did not always feel safe when she was home alone at times, because the crime rate had risen in her neighborhood. Having to answer the door to know who was on the other side was not something Brown liked to do. Brown's system had a set of four peep-holes and a camera that could slide up and down to look at each one. Anything and everything the camera picked up would appear on a monitor. Also, a resident could unlatch the door by remote control. The system included a device that enabled a homeowner to use a television set to view the person at the door and hear the caller's voice.[6] The home security system that she and her husband invented allowed the monitor to be in a different room, and all of this was possible via a radio controlled wireless system. If the person viewing the images on the monitor did not feel safe they could press a button that would send an alarm to police or security. She and her husband cited other inventors in their patent, such as Edward D. Phiney and Thomas J. Reardon. Thirteen inventors who came along after Brown have cited her patent, with the latest being in 2013. Even now, over fifty years later, her invention is being used by smaller businesses and living facilities.[2]

Although the system was originally intended for domestic uses, many businesses began to adopt her system due to its effectiveness. For her invention she received an award from the National Science Committee.[1]


  • Social Security Death Index
  • United States Patent Office
  • Black Stars: African American Women Scientists and Inventors, by Sullivan et al., publ. Jossey-Bass, 2001, ISBN 0-471-38707-X


  1. ^ a b c "Inventor Marie Van Brittan Brown born | African American Registry". Retrieved 2016-02-22. 
  2. ^ a b c "Brown, Marie Van Brittan (1922–1999) | The Black Past: Remembered and Reclaimed". Retrieved 2018-04-11. 
  3. ^ Home security system utilizing television surveillance, 1966-08-01, retrieved 2018-04-11 
  4. ^ "Marie Van Brittan Brown: Home Security System Inventor - America Comes Alive". America Comes Alive. 2015-02-13. Retrieved 2018-04-11. 
  5. ^ "Google Patents". Retrieved 2018-04-12. 
  6. ^ Webster, Raymond B. (1999). African American firsts in science & technology. Detroit [u.a.]: Gale. p. 127. ISBN 0787638765. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Zierdt-Warshaw, Linda; Winkler, Alan; Bernstein, Leonard (2000). American Women in Technology: An Encyclopedia. Santa Barbara, Calif.: ABC-CLIO. ISBN 9781576070727.