Born in 1922, Marie Van Brittan Brown was a nurse living in Queens, New York, in the 1960s. Her husband, Albert, was an electronics technician, and they often worked the late shift. Returning from work, Marie frequently felt afraid when arriving home late at night.
According to a Smithsonian article, from 1960 to 1965, serious crimes had jumped more than 30 percent in Queens, and the limited technology at the time played a part in the slow response time for police for emergency calls.
Wanting to feel safer at home, Marie enlisted Alfred’s help to bring her concept to completion. They formulated a device that allowed a motorized video camera to be affixed to the front door. Using four peepholes, the person inside the home could toggle the camera up and down to view visitors. The camera was connected to a small TV monitor. A microphone on the outside door and a speaker inside enabled the occupant to speak to the visitor, while an alarm could alert police via radio. Also, she devised a way to lock and unlock the door with a touch of a button.
Although this was not the first closed-circuit surveillance television, which was originally invented during World War II for military use, CCTV use was not widespread during the 1960s and would take decades to become commonplace. The Browns proposed utilizing the technology to create the first modern home security system in 1966. U.S. Patent 3,482,037, the Browns’ patent for their “Video and audio security system for a house under control of the occupant thereof” was granted in 1969. Over the years, 35 additional U.S. Patents were based on the one submitted by Marie.
While the Browns gained notoriety, with articles appearing in the New York Times and Time magazine, many people said the invention was considered far ahead of its time.
Marie’s security system might be considered the forerunner of advanced residential and commercial security technology in use today. She received an award from the National Scientists Committee recognizing her work. She passed away in 1999, at the age of 76, less than a decade before companies first offered CCTV to consumers.
Image courtesy of U.S. Patent Office