Marie Van Brittan Brown

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Marie Van Brittan Brown
Born(1922-10-30)October 30, 1922
DiedFebruary 2, 1999(1999-02-02) (aged 76)
Jamaica, Queens, New York
Known forCreation of home security systems
Spouse(s)Albert Brown
ChildrenNorma and Albert Jr

Marie Van Brittan Brown (October 30, 1922 – February 2, 1999) was a nurse and an innovator. In 1966, she invented a video home security system[1] along with her husband Albert Brown, an electronics technician.[2] In the same year, they applied for a patent for their innovative security system, which was granted in 1969. Brown was born in Jamaica, Queens, New York;[3] she died there at the age of 76 in 1999.


Marie Van Brittan Brown's father was born in Massachusetts and her mother was from Pennsylvania. Both were African-American.[4] Brown and her husband lived at 151-158 & 135th Avenue in Jamaica, Queens, New York.[5] She worked as a nurse and her husband was an electrician, so they did not always have normal hours or simultaneously work. Her mother, father, and grandmother all had the nickname "Dee Dee". She didn't have any siblings.[6] Marie and Brown had two children. Their daughter, followed in her mother's footsteps and became a nurse and inventor.[4]


Inspired by how long it would take the police to arrive in her neighbourhood, Brown invented the first home security system.[3] Her work hours were not the standard 9am – 5pm, and the crime rate in their Queens, New York City neighborhood was very high.[4] Marie started her invention by creating three peepholes[4] in the door to provide access for tall and average height people along with her children. The next step was setting up a camera that could adjust from peephole to peephole to allow people inside the house to look outside to see who was there. Marie wanted to find a way to view who was outside the house from any room and decided a wireless television system would work best. To do this, she used a radio-controlled wireless system that could stream the video to any television in the house.  Along with the video system, Marie and her husband created a two-way microphone system that would allow for communication between the family and the person at the door. Initially, the invention was difficult to sell to homebuilders because the cost of implementation was so high. [7] So, the Browns decided to, initially, build it in their own home hoping that would spark interest in home builders.[8] She also created a system to unlock the door remotely. Marie knew this would only help them know who was at the door or attempting to enter the home but would not improve the emergency response time. Knowing that the police or security response was slow she decided that there must be a quicker way for them to alert the authorities. To do so she invented a system that contacted police and emergency responders with just the tap of a button. She and her husband cited other inventors in their patent, such as Edward D. Phiney[5] and Thomas J. Reardon. Even now, over fifty years later, her invention is still being used by smaller businesses and living facilities.[4]

Although the system was originally intended for domestic uses, many businesses began to adopt Brown's system given its effectiveness. As a result of the innovation of a security system, she received an award from the National Science Committee,[3] officially making her a "part of an elite group of African-American inventors and scientists." Brown was quoted in the New York Times as saying that with her invention “a woman alone could set off an alarm immediately by pressing a button, or if the system were installed in a doctor’s office, it might prevent holdups by drug addicts.”[6]

The invention was essentially the first closed-circuit television security system and is the predecessor to modern home systems today.[9] It was the foundation for video monitoring, remote-controlled door locks, push-button alarm triggers, instant messaging to security providers and police, as well as two-way voice communication.[4] Brown’s invention has led to the creation of many new home security systems that rely on video systems, remote door locks, and quick emergency response actions. These systems have become the leading security for homes and small businesses all over the world. The fame of Brown's device also led to the more prevalent CCTV surveillance in public areas.[10]

The effects of Brown's home security system cannot be understated. She was recognized in the New York Times and received an award from the National Scientists Committee for her work.[11] As more home security systems came to the market, Brown's initial invention became even more influential. Her invention was cited in at least 32 future patent applications.[12] Unfortunately, after her successful patent application in 1969, the media coverage of her product ceased.[13] The home security business is expected to be at least a $1.5B business and is expected to triple by 2024,[14] however, Brown will not be able to profit from that growth. [15] Her initial invention was the foundation of most home security systems that are around today.


  1. ^ U.S. Patent 3,482,037
  2. ^ Baderinwa, Sade (2021-02-23). "Marie Van Brittan Brown of Queens invented the home security system". ABC7 New York. Retrieved 2021-03-08.
  3. ^ a b c "Inventor Marie Van Brittan Brown born | African American Registry". Retrieved 2016-02-22.
  4. ^ a b c d e f "Brown, Marie Van Brittan (1922–1999) | The Black Past: Remembered and Reclaimed". Retrieved 2018-04-11.
  5. ^ a b Home security system utilizing television surveillance, 1966-08-01, retrieved 2018-04-11
  6. ^ a b "Marie Van Brittan Brown: Home Security System Inventor - America Comes Alive". America Comes Alive. 2015-02-13. Retrieved 2018-04-11.
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  9. ^ "Merlene Davis: Forgotten black couple created your home security alarm". kentucky. Retrieved 2019-03-17.
  10. ^ Buck, Stephanie (2017-06-13). "This African American woman invented your home security system". Timeline. Retrieved 2019-03-17.
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