Who Invented the Smoke Detector?

The history of smoke detectors started with American inventor Francis Robbins Upton. He created the first fire alarm in 1890. The patent no. was 436,961. He was a colleague of Thomas Edison but there’s evidence Edison worked on the device.


Other Smoke Detectors

Upton’s invention was very basic and other models would appear. The next one appeared by accident. In 1930. Swiss physicist Walter Jaeger was trying to make a sensor for poisonous gas. He was hoping that the gas would go in the sensor and ionize air.

But the gas didn’t alter any currents. Jaeger lit a cigarette and saw the meter current go down. Jaeger’s discovery that smoke would affect the sensors changed the history of smoke detectors and how they were made.

The Emergence of Home Smoke Detectors

But these devices hardly made an impact. Electronic equipment made manufacturing very expensive. It wasn’t until the mid 1960s that affordable smoke alarms could be made. The few smoke detectors that were available were so expensive only large companies bothered to install them.

The first home detectors were made by  Duane Pearsall in 1965. Their model made use of batteries. The design made it easy for homeowners to replace them.

In 1975 Peterson and Pearsall began manufacturing smoke detectors. Their company Statitrol Corp was the first in the history of smoke detectors to sell the products.

These models were comprised of metal and resistant to fire. The battery was made by Gates Energy. It didn’t take long before the rechargeable batteries were replaced by double A batteries. The devices proved very successful.


By 1977, the company was shipping 500 units daily. In 1980, Statitrol sold its invention rights to Emerson Electrics. Sears would end up selling the product.

Commercial Smoke Detectors

These are often connected to security alarms or to the control panels. These types of detectors are more expensive than those found in homes. The history of smoke detectors has shown that most of these don’t have alarms.

They are already linked to the main control panel which have other sensors that go off in case of fire. These devices are connected to other machines that will release signs and orders for evacuation or calling the fire department.

How Smoke Detectors Work

Different models use different means for alerting one if there’s smoke or fire. The most common are audible sounds. Others use voice, strobe lights or tactile stimulation. This refers to devices that can shake beds. A lot of new models come with safety features.

The history of smoke alarms will show that a lot of earlier models become prone to false alarms. This can happen when one is toasting or cooking. Today a lot of these devices come with features that aim to mitigate its occurrence.

The efficiency of smoke detectors has not been unquestioned. Some groups have raised concerns over these devices’ ability to alert people who have hearing difficulties. Although the history of smoke detectors is not without issues, it has become a staple in most American homes.