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Meet: Mae Jemison, first African-American woman to fly in Space

photo of mae jemison

Dr. Mae C. Jemison blasted into orbit aboard the space shuttle Endeavor on September 12, 1992, the first woman of color to go into space. This historic event was only one of a series of accomplishments for this dynamic African-American women.

Dr. Jemison was Science Mission Specialist (a NASA first) on the STS-47 Space lab J flight, a US/Japan joint mission. She conducted experiments in life sciences, material sciences, and was co-investigator in the Bone Cell Research experiment. Dr. Jemison resigned from NASA in March 1993.

Chemical engineer, scientist, physician, teacher and astronaut, she has a wide range of experience in technology, engineering, and medical research. In addition to her extensive background in science, she is well-versed in African and African-American Studies and is trained in dance and choreography.

Dr. Jemison, the youngest of three children, was born in Decatur, Alabama and raised in Chicago, Illinois. She has always followed her dreams, undaunted by a lack of role models in her fields of endeavor or roadblocks to women and minorities. She is committed to ensuring that science and technology fields represent the full gender, ethnic and social diversity of this United States and encourages all people, especially women and minorities, to pursue careers in science and any other fields of their choice.

At 16, she entered Stanford University on scholarship where she graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Chemical Engineering and fulfilled the requirements for an A.B. in African and Afro-American Studies. She attended Cornell Medical College where she earned her Doctorate in Medicine in 1981. In medical school, her interest and knowledge of Third World countries evolved into a commitment to effectively contribute. She traveled to Cuba, rural Kenya, and spent a medical clerkship in Thailand at a Cambodian Refugee Camp. She completed her internship at Los Angeles County/USC Medical Center in 1982.

Prior to joining the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in 1987, she worked as a General Practitioner in Los Angeles and then spent two and a half years (1983-85) as an Area Peace Corps Medical Officer for Sierra Leone and Liberia in West Africa. Returning to Los Angeles, she resumed her medical practice working with CIGNA Health Plans of California.

An advocate of science and technology, Dr. Jemison's focus is on improving the status, quality and image of the scientist. She offers something new and innovative to the scientific arena: a blend of social and "hard" sciences. When she resigned from NASA in March 1993, Dr. Jemison founded The Jemison Group, Inc., located in Houston, TX, to research, develop and implement advanced technologies suited to the social, political, cultural and economic context of the individual, especially for the developing world. Current projects include: Alpha (TM), a satellite-based telecommunication system to improve health care in West Africa; and The Earth We Share (TM), an international science camp for students ages 12 to 16 that utilizes an experiential curriculum.

Archived Chats with Mae Jemison

Learn more about Dr. Mae Jemison in her profile on the Women of the World section of Women of NASA


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