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Who is Mae Jemison?

With a great deal of experience in technology, engineering, and medical research, Mae Jemison’s name rings bells throughout the astronaut community. Depending on what circles you travel, you may identify with her chemical engineer, scientist, physician, teaching, or space exploration background. In this article, you will learn background and facts concerning Mae Jemison , the first African American woman to travel into space.

Early Years

Mae Jemison was born on October 17th, 1956 in Decatur, Alabama to Charlie Jemison (maintenance worker) and Dorothy (teacher). The youngest of three children, she was only three years old when her family relocated to Chicago. Jemison attended Morgan Park High School and upon her graduation in 1973, attended Stanford University. She was only 16 years old at the time. In the end, she would go on to earn a BS in Chemical Engineering. Jemison additionally completed the requirements needed to receive a BA in African-American Studies.

Following her degrees at Stanford, she attended Cornell University and earned a Doctor of Medicine degree in 1981.Medical school opened her eyes to many different opportunities and travel experiences. During her time there, she traveled to international sites, such as Kenya, Thailand, and Cuba, where she was able to administer medical care to locals.

Her compassion didn’t stop there, Jemison also served in the Peace Corps , a post she maintained from January 1983 to June 1985. As a Peace Corps medical officer, she treated people in Sierra Leone and Liberia, West Africa. Some of her duties involved the supervision of pharmacy, laboratory, and medical staff during her stay. She also provided medical care. Jemison also proved herself something of a writer, as she penned self-care manuals and created guidelines centered on health and safety.

After the Peace Corps, Jemison returned to the United States and accepted a position as the general practitioner in Los Angeles for CIGNA Health Plans of California. On the side, she took graduate classes in engineering. She also applied to NASA for admission to the astronaut program during this time. Her first application was denied, but this didn’t stop her. In 1987, she gained acceptance upon her second application. Out of more than 2,000 applicants, she was one of only 15 individuals chosen.

In August of 1988, Jemison completed the astronaut training program, becoming the fifth black astronaut and the first black female astronaut in NASA history to do so. Some of the technical assignments she was given included launching support activities at the Kennedy Space Center, located in Florida.

Honors and Awards

Over the years, Mae Jemison has been awarded with a great deal of recognition for her accomplishments both inside and outside the world of astronomy. In 1993, she made it onto the list of People magazine’s “50 Most Beautiful People in the World.” A museum was named after her: Mae C. Jemison Science and Space Museum. She’s also been inducted into the National Medical Association Hall of Fame and the National Women’s Hall of Fame (in 1993). Others include:

·    Essence Award (1988)
·    Gamma Sigma Gamma Women of the Year (1989)
·    Honorary Doctorate of Science, Lincoln College, PA (1991)
·    Honorary Doctor of Letters, Winston-Salem, NC (1991)
·    McCall’s 10 Outstanding Women for the 90’s (1991)
·    Pumpkin Magazine’s (a Japanese Monthly) One of the Women for the Coming New Century (1991)
·    Johnson Publications Black Achievement Trailblazers Award (1992)
·    Ebony’s 50 Most Influential Women (1993)
·    Turner Trumpet Award (1993)
·    Montgomery Fellow, Dartmouth (1993)
·    Kilby Science Award (1993)
·    CORE Outstanding Achievement Award