Innovation in Security—10 People Who Made the World More Secure

There’s no shortage of innovators in our history. Some of these individuals have played a pivotal role in improving physical security that is still helping people protect their valuables.

Let’s talk about the 10 people who led the way to innovation in security.

1. Linus Yale Jr.

Inventor of the pin tumbler lock which is still being used, Linus Yale Jr. belonged to the family that Yale University gets its name from. Linus had an artistic yet technical mind. With his father Yale Senior’s guidance, he created locks that we’re all accustomed to using.

During the 1840s, Linus Yale Sr. started a lock manufacturing business in New York City. As Yale Sr. died in the late 1850s, his son who had dreamed of being an artist, instead, focused on the company.

He became the champion of cylinder locks by started his own company in Massachusetts in 1860. It’s here that his first pin tumbler lock idea came into existence. For this and all the other contributions he made to it, Linus Yale Jr. is regarded as the father of modern security.

2. Abraham O. Stansbury

Although he gets insufficient credit when it comes to the history of modern locks, Abraham Stansbury was, in fact, the very first to patent the modern double acting pin tumbler lock. In fact, he did it way before Yale got a patent of his own.

An American inventor and physician, Stansbury is mainly known for his letter addressing Thomas Jefferson that has been transcribed online. His work served as the foundation for improvements that Yale Jr. would make to develop the pin tumbler lock.

3. Robert Barron

Robert Barron’s most remarkable contribution to the history of modern security was his invention of double acting lever lock. Before the invention of this lock, the warded lock was the key to the security world.

By introducing the idea of a unique key for every lock, Barron changed the world of locks for good. However, his invention had an issue that was brought to his attention by the next innovator on this list; Joseph Bramah.

4. Joseph Bramah

Playing an important role in inventing the hydraulic press, Joseph Bramah improved the water closet design as well. Bramah had an eye for improving stuff and that’s exactly what he did when he came across the lever lock design of Barron. Detailing how to improve the design, he wrote a letter to Barron.

But his contribution to physical security isn’t just the suggestions he offered to Barron. He also invented the Bramah safety lock which was the basis for the latest tubular lock. Bramah continued his innovation by creating false gates to misguide the lock pickers.

In fact, he offered a huge reward to anyone who could pick the lock but no one could. All the hoopla surrounding Bramah’s unbeatable lock caught the British crown’s attention. This brings us to our next innovator; Jeremiah Chubb.

5. Jeremiah Chubb

Bramah’s lock was unbeatable, but the British government wanted a lock that was not only impossible to pick but would also alert the owner if someone tried to access it forcefully or with the wrong key. Jeremiah Chubb rose to the challenge and invented his Chubb detector lock.

Chubb’s lock was designed to lock itself if someone tried to open it with the wrong key. Once that happened, not even the right key would open the lock. Chubb lock had a secondary key designed just to reset it.

It was Jeremiah Chubb and Joseph Bramah who spread the notion of perfect security. Moreover, between their locks, England saw a period lasting three decades of locks that could not be picked.

Chubb’s legacy outlives him but he couldn’t live long enough to witness his lock getting picked.

6. Alfred Charles Hobbs

Alfred Charles Hobbs is a name mentioned every time someone discusses the work of Jeremiah Chubb and Joseph Bramah. How? Because he took it as a challenge to pick both of their unpickable locks and to everyone’s surprise, succeeded at it!

Between Bramah’s and Chubb’s inventions, the public perception of perfect security and unpickable locks were changed by Hobbs which sent locksmith innovators scrambling again.

In 1848, Perth Amboy’s Mr. Woodbridge announced a $500 reward for anyone who could unlock his safe in a month. Hobbs did it in just an hour.

In 1851, it took him less than half an hour to pick Chubb’s lock and 10 minutes more to further relock it.  To Bramah’s credit, it took Hobbs 15 days to open his lock.

Bramah, true to his words, gave Hobbs the promised reward but Hobbs’ success was more monumental than that; he changed the public idea of safety forever.

7. Vivant Denon

Known mainly for his documentation and research based on lost and ancient security methods, Denon transcribed the methods of ancient Egyptian locksmith practices. His transcribing provided the knowledge that Stansbury would use for his Egyptian lock which would then lead to Yale’s invention.

Denon is the very first person that can be credited with innovation in security. He was the first ever curator of the Louvre; a job given to him by the Napoleon himself.

8. Henry Robinson Towne

Henry Towne joined Linus Yale Jr. and started the Yale and Towne Lock Company. More than just a business partner, he was the driving force behind the company and is the main reason why Yale name is forever connected to locks. Yale Jr. passed three months after their partnership started, leaving Towne in charge.

Towne is known for the criticism of his era’s lock innovations. His book on locks proved to be an extremely useful document on security innovation. For making Yale lock the epitome of security and comprehensive documentation of security innovation and locks makes him worthy of credit.

9. James Sargent

In modern-day security, Sargent and Greenleaf Company has become a name associated with quality products. The company is known for making the most reliable padlocks. But before Sargent and Greenleaf was even a thing, Yale and Greenleaf were one of the biggest names in the security industry.

Yale Jr. had partnered with Halbert Greenleaf, an American manufacturer. James Sargent worked as a sales representative in their business. Later on, he’d go on to prove he’s more than just a sales rep.

He had a knack for mechanics and he fulfilled his potential by creating the most reliable combination dial for safes of his time.  His magnet lock for bank security was a huge success.

Later on, when Yale and Greenleaf stopped working together during the Civil War, he continued pursuing innovation in security.

After the end of Civil War, Halbert Greenleaf reached out to James Sargent, and together they started a new partnership. The business is still in operation today, continuing Sargent’s legacy of innovation in security.

10. Marc Weber Tobias

Marc Weber Tobias is the name behind numerous innovations in security. His unrivaled commitment to finding flaws in security products deemed safe by everyone. The most notable achievement of Marc Weber is perhaps his going public with the flaws of the Medeco locks during his time.

What makes him such an important personality in the security game is his ability to take the issues public and create a buzz. Furthermore, his criticism of issues in gun locks that were designed to prevent children from firing guns is worthy of accolades.

The Takeaway

Physical security has come a long way from its humble origins. There’s no denying that we don’t live in a world with perfect security but security measures should be taken all the same to protect your lives and property.

In New York City, safety is a concern which is why we at New York Locksmith Networks offer 24-hour locksmith services. With over 2 decades’ worth of experience, we offer reliable locksmith services to ensure security that all these great innovators would be proud of so contact us now!

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