Marie Van Brittan Brown (1922-1999) was a 43-year-old African-American nurse who worked long hours before returning home to Jamaica Queens in New York City. Neighborhood crime was high, her husband often worked late, and police were slow to respond to calls.
In 1966, Brown designed a closed-circuit security system that monitored visitors via camera and projected their images onto a television, with a panic button that contacted police. Brown envisioned a series of peepholes at various heights with a camera that slid over the peepholes to assess the outside area. A radio-controlled wireless system would transfer the image to a monitor where a resident could see who was at the door, then communicate using two-way microphones. A remote control could lock or unlock the door from a safe distance.
Brown filed her first-of-its-kind patent for her “home security system utilizing television surveillance” on August 1, 1966. On December 2, 1969, Brown was awarded her patent, she and her husband Albert were featured in article by The New York Times, and she later received a well-deserved award from the National Scientists Committee.
Brown’s invention inspired many of the security systems used in today’s homes, apartment buildings, and businesses. And by 2013, more than a dozen inventors had cited the Brown patent for their own devices.
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