Black History Month: Mae C. Jemison, MD, Reaches for the Stars

February 28, 2019 Rene F. Najera

Mae C. Jemison, MD, was the first Black woman to go into space, but that was only one of her many achievements. From a very young age, Dr. Jemison showed the aptitude for all things scientific. She entered college at age 16, graduating with a degree in chemical engineering and Afro-American studies. By the age of 25, in 1981, Dr. Jemison graduated from medical school, traveling to West Africa as a medical officer with the Peace Corps and then on to a medical practice in Los Angeles.

Dr. Jemison also participated in research on the Hepatitis B vaccine, schistosomiasis and rabies with the National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In 1987, Dr. Jemison was selected into the astronaut program at NASA. In September 1992, she was a crewmember of STS-47 Spacelab-J, a joint space mission with Japan. Dr. Jamison logged over 190 hours in space.

Although she ended her astronaut career in March of 1993, Dr. Mae C. Jemison has continued to be involved in many scientific and technological endeavors aimed at addressing disparities in science and the application of technology. She has contributed to programs addressing science illiteracy. Dr. Jemison also has taught courses on sustainable development and technology design.

From the National Libraries of Medicine:

“In March 1993, she founded the Jemison Group, Inc., her private company that aims to “research, develop, and implement advanced technologies suited to the social, political, cultural, and economic context of the individual, especially for the developing world.” Jemison Group projects have included a satellite-based telecommunications system to improve health in West African, and consulting on the design and implementation of solar thermal electricity generation systems for developing countries.

Dr. Jemison has received numerous honors and awards. She received the Essence Award in 1988. She was awarded the Gamma Sigma Gamma Woman of the Year in 1989, and was named one of McCall’s 10 Outstanding Women for the 90’s in 1991. Jemison was awarded Johnson Publications Black Achievement Trailblazers Award in 1992. She inspired the Mae C. Jemison Science and Space Museum at Wright Junior College in Chicago, which was dedicated in 1992. She was named to Ebony’s Most Influential Women list in 1993, and was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame in 1993.”

Today, Dr. Jemison continues to be active in the promotion of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) careers.


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