Dr. Mae Jemison

Mae C. Jemison is the first African American female astronaut. In 1992, she flew into space aboard the Endeavour, becoming the first African American woman in space.

Who Is Mae C. Jemison?

Mae C. Jemison is an American astronaut and physician who, on June 4, 1987, became the first African American woman to be admitted into NASA’s astronaut training program. On September 12, 1992, Jemison finally flew into space with six other astronauts aboard the Endeavour on mission STS47, becoming the first African American woman in space. In recognition of her accomplishments, Jemison has received several awards and honorary doctorates.

Early Life and Education

Jemison was born on October 17, 1956, in Decatur, Alabama. She is the youngest child of Charlie Jemison, a roofer and carpenter, and Dorothy (Green) Jemison, an elementary school teacher. Her sister, Ada Jemison Bullock, became a child psychiatrist, and her brother, Charles Jemison, is a real estate broker.

The Jemison family moved to Chicago, Illinois, when Jemison was three years old to take advantage of better educational opportunities, and it is that city that she calls her hometown.

Throughout her early school years, Jemison’s parents were supportive and encouraging of her talents and abilities, and she spent a considerable amount of time in her school library reading about all aspects of science, especially astronomy.

During her time at Morgan Park High School, she became convinced she wanted to pursue a career in biomedical engineering. When she graduated in 1973 as a consistent honor student, she entered Stanford University on a National Achievement Scholarship.

As she had been in high school, Jemison was very involved in extracurricular activities at Stanford, including dance and theater productions, and served as head of the Black Student Union. She received a Bachelor of Science degree in chemical engineering from the university in 1977. Upon graduation, she entered Cornell University Medical College and, during her years there, found time to expand her horizons by studying in Cuba and Kenya and working at a Cambodian refugee camp in Thailand.

Career as a Medical Doctor

After Jemison obtained her M.D. in 1981, she interned at Los Angeles County/University of Southern California Medical Center and later worked as a general practitioner. For the next two and a half years, she was the area Peace Corps medical officer for Sierra Leone and Liberia where she also taught and did medical research.