Pioneer Inventor Marie Van Brittan Brown Designed The Very First Home Security System


We love talking about pioneer women who changed the world and made history. From Ada Lovelace the world’s first computer programmer, to Marie Curie who discovered radium and many more, there are so many names who are not commonly taught in schools and history classes. This is precisely why sites like us exist in order to share about these inspiring women who made valuable contributions to the world, the effects of which we are still benefiting from today.

One of those women is Marie Van Brittan Brown who is a pioneer inventor of the modern home surveillance and security system. We talk a lot about the need for safety and protection of women against sexual assault, rape, harassment and other types of attacks, but this woman came up with a way to ensure security in our homes, and she definitely had women in mind.

Marie was working as a nurse in Queens, New York, and her husband filed a patent for their invention in 1966. Their device became the very first home security system with audio and video capabilities.

Working as a nurse meant that Brown was at home at odd times of the day and night, but what really motivated her to design a security system was the fact that her husband (an electronics technician) was rarely at home at night himself, and the rate of crime in their neighborhood was continuing to increase. She also felt that police response time in their area was disreputably slow, so she knew she needed a new way to feel less vulnerable when home alone.


Working together with her husband, Marie came up with a home surveillance system that could help her identify who was standing at the door before answering it. As shown in the infographic below, Marie’s home security system design consisted of cameras, two-­way communication, and a button that when pushed would sound an alarm directly at the police station or alert neighbors of an intruder. The device also had another button to remotely unlock the door if the visitor was not a threat. The patent for this device was approved in 1969, giving rise to the modern home security systems Marie’s invention inspired that is used in homes and businesses across the world today.

Her system was the front runner for the home monitoring systems like Think Protection. Mrs. Brown was ahead of her time. In the mid-1960s no one was creating surveillance systems. Today there are 13 other patents in the US which have referenced Marie and her husband’s closed-circuit design. The home security system designed by Marie and her husband would become the standard protection kit for households and small businesses across the world.


A profile written about Marie on America Comes Alive, a site dedicated to sharing little-known stories about American history, says the New York Times wrote a piece about Marie’s patent in December 1969, but after that the media stories mostly disappear. At the time Marie told the NYT she was on the lookout for manufacturers to mass produce her successful patent in order to help other people protect their homes.

Marie ended up winning a National Scientists Committee award, but the year is unknown. Her pioneer invention changed the way families and individuals can take control of their own safety. A report from Next/Market Insights in 2014 states the DIY home security system will be a billion dollar market by 2020.

Marie passed away in Queens, New York on February 2, 1999 at the age of 75. Of the two of her children, one went on to become a nurse and an inventor who holds a dozen patents of her own. Her daughter’s patents are mostly focused on ideas that help people with health issues.

So, next time you’re sitting safe at home with your trendy furniture and big TV just remember how it was Marie who allowed you to sit in such comfort.




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