Mae Carol Jemison was born in Decatur, Alabama, on October 17, 1956 but considers Chicago, Illinois her hometown. Her father, a roofer and carpenter, and her mother, an elementary school teacher, moved the family to Chicago when Mae was three, in part to further their daughter’s chances of a better education. Her parents encouraged her love of science from an early age and she read extensively, especially about astronomy. In 1973, she graduated from Morgan Park High School there then attended Stanford University, where she earned a B.A. in Chemical Engineering in 1977. In 1981, she received a Doctorate in Medicine from Cornell University. She also has an Honorary Doctorate of Sciences from Lincoln College, Pennsylvania and an Honorary Doctorate of Letters from Winston Salem College, North Carolina. She received both of these awards in 1991.
Prior to joining the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), Dr. Mae Jemison worked as a General Practitioner in Los Angeles with the INA/Ross Loos Medical Group from 1981 to 1983. From 1983 to 1985 she was an Area Peace Corps Medical Officer for Sierra Leone and Liberia in western Africa then returned to Los Angeles to resume her medical practice, working with CIGNA Health Plans of California.
Jemison was selected for the astronaut program in 1987. Her many technical assignments have included launch support activities at the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida, verification of Shuttle computer software in the Shuttle Avionics Integration Laboratory (SAIL), and Science Support Group activities. She also worked on Alpha, a satellite based telecommunication system to improve health care in western Africa.
On September 12, 1992, Jemison was aboard the Space Shuttle Endeavor, when it launched from KSC, making her the first African American woman to enter space. Dr. Jemison was a science mission specialist (a NASA first) on the STS-47 Space lab J flight, a joint US/Japan mission. She conducted experiments in life sciences, material sciences, and was co-investigator in the Bone Cell Research experiment. The Endeavor landed at KSC on September 20 after 126 orbits of the Earth. She logged seven days, 22 hours and 30 minutes in space on the flight. Dr. Jemison resigned from NASA in March 1993.
As a chemical engineer, scientist, physician, teacher and astronaut, she has a wide range of experience in technology, engineering, and medical research. She has been awarded the National Achievement Scholarship (1973-1977); the 1979 CIBA Award for Student Involvement; the Essence Award (1988), the Gamma Sigma Gamma Woman of the Year (1989) and was a Montgomery Fellow for 1993 Dartmouth College.
An advocate of science and technology, Dr. Jemison’s focus is on improving the status, quality, and image of the scientist. She founded The Jemison Group, Inc., located in Houston, to research, develop, and implement advanced technologies suited to the social, political, cultural, and economic context of the individual, especially for the developing world.
Since 1993, Dr. Jemison has also been a member of the Dartmouth faculty in the Environmental Studies Program and is Director of The Jemison Institute for Advancing Technology in Developing Countries at Dartmouth College. She has hosted and been a technical consultant for the “World of Wonders” series on the Discovery Channel. She is also in demand as a speaker to civic and government organizations, schools and corporations around the country and internationally.