Black History Month Spotlight: Dr. Mae Jemison

Black History Month Spotlight: Dr. Mae Jemison


Dr. Mae Jemison has accomplished many things in her life. During her early school years on the South Side of Chicago, she discovered her love of science. This would lead her to a scholarship at Stanford University, where she received a Bachelor’s in both Chemical Engineering and African and African-American Studies.  She went on to complete her Doctorate in Medicine in 1981 from Cornell University, after which she worked as a general practitioner and served in the Peace Corps, battling infectious diseases in West Africa.

Dr. Mae Jemison

For many people, that would be a fulfilling life and career. We could end the story of her life and marvel at her many contributions. Mae didn’t think so. Watching Sally Ride become the first woman to enter space, in 1983, reignited Jemison’s childhood dream of becoming an astronaut.  And, in September of 1991, Dr. Mae Jemison was aboard the Endeavor as the first woman of color to enter space. She orbited the Earth 127 times and completed two crucial bone cell research experiments before the shuttle returned to Earth.

Mae left NASA the following year, still not complete with all her accomplishments in life. Since then, she has opened The Jemison Group, a consultant group that focuses on encouraging science, technology, and social change. She taught environmental studies at Dartmouth College and directed the Jemison Institute for Advancing Technology in Developing Countries. In 1994, Dr. Jemison created The Earth We Share, an international space camp for young people ages 12-16. She formed the Dorothy Jemison Foundation for Excellence, a non-profit named after her late mother. The foundation “develops and implements teaching methods, curricula, materials and programs that foster educational experiences resulting in individuals fully able to participate and contribute effectively and beneficially to society.” In 1999, she became a professor-at-large at Cornell University. And, in 2001, she released her first book – a children’s book about her life – called “Find Where the Wind Goes.”

The accomplishments of Dr. Mae Jemison do not stop there, she has been inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame, the National Medical Association Hall of Fame, and the Texas Science Hall of Fame.

Dr. Jemison is currently leading the 100 Year Starship project. The 100 Year Starship project, through the United States Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, is focused on ensuring human space travel to another star is possible in the next 100 years.   It seems fitting, as she was also the first actual astronaut to appear on Star Trek, too!

Thank you, Dr. Jemison, for your continued dedication to science, technology, medicine, and educating all of us. Mae has been a huge supporter of STEM, and her recent (animated) appearance on Sesame Street shows us she’s not done teaching our youth (or us!) yet.

Please join us in exploring a new piece of history every week this month on our blog.

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