Mae Jemison


Sage Sherburne, Herald News Writer

Mae Carol Jemison was born on October 17th, 1956 in Decatur Alabama. She is a black American engineer, physician and former NASA Astronaut. She made history when she became the first black woman to travel space and joined the astronaut corps in 1987 and was selected to serve the STS-47 mission. Mae Jemison is a historical figure like Rosa Parks, Ruth Bader Ginsberg and Selena Quentilla. 


Jemison is the youngest of three children born to Charlie and Dorathy Jemison. She studied nature and human physiology in school. After graduating from Chicago Morgan Parks High School in 1973, Jemison went to Stanford University at age 16. She was very young to be leaving home for college, but later said the experience did not aid her in any way. At Stanford, Jemison served as head of the Black Student’s Union. There were few African Americans students in her class. Jemison also experienced discrimnation from her teachers. In 1977, she graduated from Stanford and received a B.S degree in chemical engineering as well as a B.A in African and African American Studies. While in college, she studied a space childhood interest and even considered applying for NASA. Jemison went to Cornell Medical School and during her training traveled to Cuba and Thailand. While in her medical school, she also studied dance. In 1983, she joined the staff of the Peace Corps and served as a medical officer until 1985.


When returning to the United States after serving in the Peace Corps, Jemison settled in Los Angeles, California. In 1983, she was inspired by the flights of Sally Ride and Guion Bluford and decided to apply for an astronaut program. Jemison first applied to NASA’s astronaut training program in October of 1985. She flew STS-47 on September 12 to 20 1992. She orbited the earth 127 times and logged 190 hours, 30 minutes and 23 seconds in space.


Jemison is now well into her post-NASA career. She served on the board of directors of the World Sickle Cell Foundation from 1990 to 1992 (sickle cell anemia is a rare inherited blood disorder). In 1993, she founded the Jemison inc. (a consulting firm which considers the sociocultural impact of technological advancements and design). She also founded the Dorothy Jemison Foundation for Excellence and named the foundation in honor of her mother. Jemison was a professor of environmental studies at Dartmouth College from 1995 to 2002. She continues to advocate strongly in favor of science to get students interested in the career. Jemison is a member of many science organizations such as the American Medical Association, American Chemical Society, Association of Space Explores, and American Association for the Advancement of Science. In 1999, she founded Biosenteinty Corp and obtained the license to commercialize AFTE (the technique she and Mohri tested on themselves during STS-47).  In 2021, Jemison made a winning bid for DARPA, which is a 100 year starship project through the Dorothy Jemison Foundation for Excellence. This foundation was awarded a $500,000 grant for further work. Jemison is the current principle of the 100 year starship. In 2018, she collaborated with Bayer Crop Science and National 4-H council for the initiative named Science Matters which was aimed at encouraging young children to understand and pursue agricultural sciences.