Saturday, March 24, 2018

Women's History Month 2018: Marie Van Brittan Brown

Marie Van Brittan Brown
Not a lot is recorded about the personal life of Marie Van Brittan Brown, but her inventiveness changed the future of both home and commercial security.

In 1922, Marie was born in Jamaica, Queens, New York where she lived her life. She worked as a nurse, which meant she often kept unconventional hours and found herself home alone. Crime rates in her neighborhood worried Marie and made her wish for a way to stay safer and more secure in her home.

Marie came up with an idea for a surveillance system. Her idea involved creating a closed-circuit television system and a motorized camera that looked through a set of peepholes. Her husband, Albert Brown, was an electronic technician. With his help, Marie was able to bring her idea to life. In 1966, the pair applied for a patent on their home security system, which was granted them in 1969.

The system Marie came up with still sounds modern. Not only did it have a closed circuit camera system, but it also featured a microphone so she could talk to anyone on the other side of the camera. It even featured a remote control lock so she could lock and unlock the door from the comfort and safety of another room.

The timing was perfect. No one else was creating this kind of security system in or before the 1960s outside of military applications, which gave Marie's idea an edge. There's no evidence that Marie and her husband tried to market their idea to others after receiving the patent, but their patent was cited by most other security system inventors that came after them. It is unclear when, but Marie did receive a National Scientists Committee award for her invention.

Marie and her husband created a system that became the basis for most modern security systems. It continues to influence security today. The most recent patent that cites Marie's was filed in 2013.

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