Black History Month Spotlight: Marie Van Brittan Brown

Detail of Marie Van Brittan Brown's original design for a home security system

Do you know the origin story of residential security? The Security Industry Association (SIA) is celebrating Black History Month by recognizing some of the many valuable contributions African American security professionals and Black-owned and operated businesses have made to the industry, and a great place to start is with Marie Van Brittan Brown, the inventor of the first modern home security system.

In 1966, Brown was a 43-year-old woman living in New York City and working long hours as a nurse; her husband, Albert, was also away many nights for his job as an electronics technician. In an effort to feel safer in her apartment, Brown created a closed-circuit security system with a camera that monitored visitors and projected their images onto a monitor and a panic button that could be used to immediately contact police. The system also featured a series of peepholes, a radio-controlled wireless system and a remote control option to allow locking and unlocking of doors from a safer or more convenient distance.

On Aug. 1, 1966, Marie and Albert filed for a patent under the title “Home Security System Utilizing Television Surveillance,” and the patent was awarded on Dec. 2, 1969. The Browns’ invention has inspired many versions of the home security systems we use today and led to more prevalent use of CCTV surveillance in public spaces. Learn more about Marie Van Brittan Brown in this 2017 piece from Timeline.