5 Marie Van Brittan Brown: Inventor of the First Home Security System

KC Celestine

[The Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level is: 9.62]

Marie Van Brittan Brown was born on October 22, 1922 in Queens, New York. Not much is known of her childhood, but her father was born in Massachusetts and her mother was from Pennsylvania. She married Albert Brown. They had two children, Norma Brown and Albert Brown Jr.

Picture of Marie Van Brittan Brown
Marie Van Brittan Brown

Brown’s job as a nurse resulted in her working long hours. Her husband was an electronics technician who worked irregular hours. This would often cause her to get home late and be left home alone. They lived in Jamaica, Queens, New York. The area was a high crime neighborhood and police responded slowly in emergencies. This led to Brown inventing the first home security system with help from her husband.

Marie Van Brittan Brown's home security system patent design
Patent image of the Brown’s home security system design.

Her invention consisted of a two-way monitor, peepholes, a camera, monitors, and an alarm button that could contact police immediately when pressed. The patent read: “The system includes a video scanning device at the entrance door of the house to scan a visitor outside the door, and includes audio intercommunication equipment inside and outside the door for conversing with the [visitor] outside the door.” Peepholes were placed on the front door at different heights to account for people of various heights including children.  A camera that slides up and down to allow someone to see through each peephole was attached on the opposite side of the door. The camera images would reflect on the monitor via a wireless system that was placed in another part of the house.

There was also a voice component to enable Brown to speak to the person outside. If the person was perceived to be an intruder, the police would be notified with the push of a button. If the person was welcomed or an expected visitor, the door could be unlocked via remote control.

Brown and her husband filed for a patent on August 1, 1966. They received a patent for the invention under the U.S. Patent number 3,482,037 on December 6, 1969.

She also received an award from the National Science Committee for the invention of the home security system.

Brown died on February 2, 1999, at 76, at their Queens home. She didn’t live long enough to see the future developments of her invention. Her security system was the basis for the two-way communication and surveillance features of modern security. Although Brown’s security system was initially intended for home use, it has become an everyday necessity for almost all business establishments. By creating a system that made her feel safer in her own home, Brown simultaneously established a foundation for the future of all home security technology. Her daughter also followed in her footsteps by becoming a nurse and inventor.




Writing Prompts:

Narrative: Have you ever heard your doorbell ring or heard someone knock on your door? Marie Van Brittan Brown invented the first home security system so she could know who was there without having to go to the door. This helped her feel safe, and is still being used today. Write a brief story about a new invention that you could use in your home to make you and others feel safe. CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.6.3

Informative: Explain in your own words how Marie Van Brittan Brown’s invention works and if you have ever used or seen some type of security system. CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.WHST.6-8.2

Persuasive:  Marie Van Brittan Brown’s security system paved the foundation for the future of all home security technology. Often inventors have to get funding for their inventions. Persuade an audience of investors why your invention from the narrative prompt should be funded and created. Give clear reasons, relevant evidence, use credible sources and demonstrate an understanding of why your invention is needed. CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.6.1.B

Creation/Application: Every design patent application must include either a drawing or a black and white photograph of the claimed design. Draw a picture of the new invention you created from the previous prompts. Be as detailed with your drawing as possible.

Works Cited

Harkin, Sofia. “Marie Van Brittan Brown Biography for Kids.” Lottie, www.lottie.com/blogs/strong-women/marie-van-brittan-brown-biography-for-kids. Accessed 21 June 2022.

Hill, Rebecca. “MARIE VAN BRITTAN BROWN (1922-1999).” BlackPast, www.blackpast.org/african-american-history/brown-marie-van-brittan-1922-1999. Accessed 21 June 2022.

Keatley, Rachel. “Happy Birthday, Marie Van Brittan Brown.” COMSOL, www.comsol.com/blogs/happy-birthday-marie-van-brittan-brown. Accessed 21 June 2022.

Nguyen, Jasmine. “Securing Homes.” Klein ISD, news.kleinisd.net/2019/02/27/securing-homes. Accessed 21, June 2022.

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