Mae Jemison

Mae Jemison
Mae Carol Jemison.jpg
Jemison in July 1992
Mae Carol Jemison

(1956-10-17) October 17, 1956 (age 62)
Space career
NASA astronaut
Time in space
190 hours, 30 minutes, and 23 seconds
Selection1987 NASA Group
Mission insignia
RetirementMarch 1993

Mae Carol Jemison (born October 17, 1956) is an American engineer, physician, and former NASA astronaut. She became the first black woman to travel in space when she served as a mission specialist aboard the Space Shuttle Endeavour. Jemison joined NASA's astronaut corps in 1987 and was selected to serve for the STS-47 mission, during which she orbited the Earth for nearly eight days on September 12–20, 1992.

Born in Alabama and raised in Chicago, Jemison graduated from Stanford University with degrees in chemical engineering as well as African and African-American studies. She then earned her medical degree from Cornell University. Jemison was a doctor for the Peace Corps in Liberia and Sierra Leone from 1983 until 1985 and worked as a general practitioner. In pursuit of becoming an astronaut, she applied to NASA.

Jemison left NASA in 1993 and founded a technology research company. She later formed a non-profit educational foundation and through the foundation is the principal of the 100 Year Starship project funded by DARPA. Jemison also wrote several books for children and appeared on television several times, including in an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation. She holds several honorary doctorates and has been inducted into the National Women's Hall of Fame and the International Space Hall of Fame.


Mae Carol Jemison was born in Decatur, Alabama, on October 17, 1956,[1][2] the youngest of three children of Charlie Jemison and Dorothy Jemison (née Green).[3] Her father was a maintenance supervisor for a charity organization, and her mother worked most of her career as an elementary school teacher of English and math at the Ludwig van Beethoven Elementary School in Chicago, Illinois.[4][5] The family first lived in Woodlawn and later the Morgan Park neighborhoods.[6] Jemison knew from a young age that she wanted to study science and someday go into space.[7] The television show Star Trek, and in particular African-American actress Nichelle Nichols' portrayal of Lieutenant Uhura further stoked her interest in space.[8][9][10]

Jemison enjoyed studying nature and human physiology, using her observations to learn more about science. Her mother encouraged her curiosity[8] and both her parents were supportive of her interest in science, she did not always see the same support from her teachers.[11] When Jemison told a kindergarten teacher she wanted to be a scientist when she grew up, the teacher assumed she meant she wanted to be a nurse.[12] Seeing a lack of female astronauts during the Apollo missions also frustrated Jemison. She later recalled, "everybody was thrilled about space, but I remember being really really irritated that there were no women astronauts."[7]

Jemison began studying ballet at the age of 8 or 9 and entered high school at 12 years old, where she joined the cheerleading team and the Modern Dance Club.[13][14] She learned several styles of dance, including African and Japanese, as well as ballet, jazz, and modern dance. As a child, Jemison had aspirations of becoming a professional dancer.[15] At the age of 14, she auditioned for the leading role of Maria in West Side Story. She did not get the leading role but was selected as a background dancer.[16]

After graduating from Chicago's Morgan Park High School in 1973,[12] Jemison entered Stanford University at the age of 16.[8] Although she was young to be leaving home for college, Jemison later said it did not faze her because she was "naive and stubborn enough".[8] There were very few other African-American students in Jemison's classes and she continued to experience discrimination from her teachers.[17] In an interview with The Des Moines Register in 2008, Jemison said that it was difficult to go to Stanford at 16 but that her youthful arrogance may have helped her;[18] she asserted that some arrogance is necessary for women and minorities to be successful in a white male dominated society.[18]

At Stanford, Jemison served as head of the Black Students Union.[11] She also choreographed a musical and dance production called Out of the Shadows.[19] During her senior year in college, she struggled with the choice between going to medical school or pursuing a career as a professional dancer after graduation;[20] she graduated from Stanford in 1977, receiving a B.S. degree in chemical engineering.[1][8] and B.A. degree in African and African-American studies.[21] While at Stanford, she also pursued studies related to her childhood interest in space and first considered applying to NASA.[22]

Other Languages
العربية: ماي جيميسون
asturianu: Mae Jemison
Bân-lâm-gú: Mae Jemison
български: Мей Джемисън
català: Mae Jemison
čeština: Mae Jemisonová
Cymraeg: Mae Jemison
Deutsch: Mae Jemison
español: Mae Jemison
euskara: Mae Jemison
فارسی: می جمیسون
français: Mae Jemison
한국어: 메이 제미슨
हिन्दी: मेई जैमिसन
Bahasa Indonesia: Mae Jemison
italiano: Mae Jemison
ქართული: მეი ჯემისონი
Kiswahili: Mae Jemison
Latina: Maia Jemison
lietuvių: Mae Jemison
Malagasy: Mae Jemison
മലയാളം: മീ ജെമിസൺ
Bahasa Melayu: Mae Jemison
Nederlands: Mae Jemison
norsk nynorsk: Mae Jemison
polski: Mae Jemison
português: Mae Jemison
Simple English: Mae Jemison
slovenčina: Mae Jemisonová
српски / srpski: Mej Džemison
svenska: Mae Jemison
Tiếng Việt: Mae Jemison
Yorùbá: Mae Jemison