BlackFacts Details

Mae Jemison: First African-American Woman Astronaut

NASA astronauts have a love of science and adventure, and are highly trained in their fields. Dr. Mae C. Jemison is no exception. Shes a chemical engineer, scientist, physician, teacher, astronaut, and actor. Over the course of her career, she has worked in engineering and medical research, and was invited to be part of a Star Trek: Next Generation episode, becoming the first NASA astronaut to also serve in the fictional Starfleet.

In addition to her extensive background in science, Dr. Jemison is well-versed in African and African-American studies, speaks fluent Russian, Japanese, and Swahili, as well as English and is trained in dance and choreography.

Mae Jemisons Early Life and Career

Dr. Jemison was born in Alabama in 1956 and grew up in Chicago. After graduating from Morgan Park High School at the age of 16, she went on to attend Stanford University, where she earned a BS in Chemical Engineering. In 1981, she received a Doctor of Medicine degree from Cornell University. While enrolled at Cornell Medical School, Dr. Jemison traveled to Cuba, Kenya and Thailand, providing primary medical care to the people living in these nations. 

After graduating from Cornell, Dr. Jemison served in the Peace Corps, where she supervised the pharmacy, laboratory, medical staff as well as provided medical care, wrote self-care manuals, developed and implemented guidelines for health and safety issues.

Also working in conjunction with the Center for Disease Control (CDC) she helped with research for various vaccines.

Dr. Jemison returned to the U.S., and worked with CIGNA Health Plans of California as a general practitioner. She enrolled in graduate classes in engineering and applied to NASA for admission to the astronaut program.

She joined the corps in 1987 and successfully completed her astronaut training, becoming the fifth black astronaut and the first black female astronaut in NASA history. She was the science mission specialist on STS-47, a cooperative mission between the U.S. and Japan. Dr. Jemison was a