Marie Van Brittan Brown (October 30, 1922 – February 2, 1999) was an American nurse and 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. Her innovation has had a huge impact on the entire security system. Her idea has expanded beyond just security for those at home, and her ideas can be seen with security systems in businesses around the world. Brown was born in Jamaica, Queens, New York;[3] she died there at the age of 76 in 1999.


Marie Van Brittan Brown (October 30, 1922 – February 2, 1999) was an American nurse and innovator. In 1966, she invented a video home security system[1] along with her husband Albert Brown, an electronics technician.[2] That same year they applied for a patent for their security system. It was granted three years later in 1969. Her innovation impacted the security system. Brown was born in Jamaica, Queens, New York[3] She died there on February 2, 1999 at the age of seventy-six.[2][4]

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
SpouseAlbert Brown
ChildrenNorma and Albert Jr.

Early life

Marie Van Brittan Brown's father was born in Massachusetts and her mother was from Pennsylvania. Both were African-American. Not much is known about the early life of Marie. Marie married an electrician named Albert Brown. Marie and her husband lived at 151–158 & 135th Avenue in Jamaica, Queens, New York.[5] Her mother, father and grandmother all had the nickname "Dee Dee". She did not have any siblings.[6] Marie and Albert had two children, a boy named Albert Jr. and a girl named Norma. Her daughter Norma ended up becoming a nurse and inventor, having over 34 inventions. [7]

Home Security System

Both Marie and her husband Albert had irregular work hours that often not overlap. Marie was a nurse while her husband Albert was an electrician. Because of this, there would be many nights where Marie was left alone in her home at night. The crime rate in her neighborhood was very high and the police typically took a lot of time to arrive in her neighborhood. This led Brown to invent the first home security system.[3] At the time, Brown was forty years old.[4]

When Marie and her husband first came up with their security system, their invention consisted of four peepholes, a sliding camera, TV monitors, and microphones. The cameras could go from peephole to peephole. These cameras were connected to the TV monitors inside her home. The TV monitors allowed for her to see who was at the door without opening it while the microphone allowed her to speak with whoever was outside without having to open the door.

On August 1, 1966, Marie and her husband submitted a patent application for her invention. It would be the first patent of its kind, and her husband's name was below hers. The patent was granted by the government on December 2, 1969. Four days later, the New York Times ran an article about her invention.[4][8]


At first, the invention was difficult to sell to homebuilders because the cost of implementation was so high.[9] The Browns decided to build it in their own home hoping to spark interest in home builders.[6] Marie ended up adding a system in which you could unlock the door using a remote. Knowing that the police or security response was slow, she invented a system that contacted police and emergency responders by tapping a button. She and her husband cited other inventors in their patent, such as Edward D. Phinney and Thomas J. Reardon.[5] Her invention is still used today by smaller businesses and living facilities.[7]

Although the system was originally intended for domestic uses, many businesses began to adopt Brown's system. Brown was recognized for her innovation and 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 the first closed-circuit television security system and is the predecessor to modern home systems today.[10] 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.[7] Brown's invention has led to the creation of 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.[4]


Marie Van Brittan Brown's invention of the home security system provided the foundation for security systems in places other than homes to develop, including in businesses and banks. [11] She was recognized in the New York Times and received an award from the National Scientists Committee for her work. As more home security systems came to the market, her invention was cited in at least 32 future patent applications.[11] After her approved patent application in 1969, the media coverage of her product ceased.[6]

The home security business is expected to be at least a $1.5B business and is expected to triple by 2024.[9]


  1. ^ U.S. patent 3,482,037
  2. ^ a b Baderinwa, Sade (2021-02-23). "Marie Van Brittan Brown of Queens invented the home security system". ABC7 New York. Archived from the original on 2021-02-23. Retrieved 2021-03-08.
  3. ^ a b c "Inventor Marie Van Brittan Brown born | African American Registry". Archived from the original on 2016-03-01. Retrieved 2016-02-22.
  4. ^ a b c d Buck, Stephanie (2017-06-13). "This African American woman invented your home security system". Timeline. Archived from the original on 2020-06-10. Retrieved 2019-03-17.
  5. ^ a b Home security system utilizing television surveillance, 1966-08-01, archived from the original on 2019-02-25, retrieved 2018-04-11
  6. ^ a b c d Kelly, Kate (2015-02-13). "Marie Van Brittan Brown: Home Security System Inventor". America Comes Alive. Archived from the original on 2021-03-07. Retrieved 2021-07-08.
  7. ^ a b c "Brown, Marie Van Brittan (1922–1999) | The Black Past: Remembered and Reclaimed". 11 April 2016. Archived from the original on 2018-04-18. Retrieved 2018-04-11.
  8. ^ "TimesMachine: Saturday December 6, 1969 -". Archived from the original on 2020-12-12. Retrieved 2021-07-08.
  9. ^ a b Hilgers, Laura. "A Brief History of the Invention of the Home Security Alarm". Smithsonian Magazine. Archived from the original on 2021-05-16. Retrieved 2021-07-08.
  10. ^ "Merlene Davis: Forgotten black couple created your home security alarm". kentucky. Archived from the original on 2019-10-17. Retrieved 2019-03-17.
  11. ^ a b "Marie Valinta Brittan Brown | Lemelson". Archived from the original on 2021-07-14. Retrieved 2021-07-08.

Further reading

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