History Makers: Dr. Mae C. Jemison
Throughout Black History Month, we are featuring modern history makers who have, and continue to, break barriers with their scientific discoveries and feats. To kick off the series, we spotlighted Kizzmekia “Kizzy” Corbett, PhD and Lisa P. Jackson. Now, we are focusing on a figure who rocked the aerospace field: Mae C. Jemison, MD, engineer and NASA astronaut.
Dr. Jemison was determined to travel to space from a young age. After graduating from high school at 16 years old, she attended Stanford University. She excelled in her studies and extracurriculars, graduating with dual degrees in chemical engineering and African and African American studies. She then headed to Cornell Medical School. Quadrilingual, she later served as a medical officer in Africa with the Peace Corps before opening a private medical practice.
Inspired by Sally Ride, the first American woman in space, Dr. Jemison decided to apply for the NASA astronaut program and was selected in 1987 in the first group after the Challenger explosion. In September 1992, she completed her first mission, becoming the first black woman to travel in space.
Since leaving NASA, Dr. Jemison has focused on inspiring the next generation. Among her many professional and philanthropic endeavors, she established the Dorothy Jemison Foundation for Excellence, which includes programs like The Earth We Share, an international science camp; Reality Leads Fantasy—Celebrating Women of Color in Flight; and EXPO Inspire, a public STEM fair. Currently, she is leading 100 Year Starship, a nonprofit initiative focused on human travel beyond our solar system.
During her career, Dr. Jemison has rocketed women and minorities to the forefront of the aerospace industry. But there’s still more work to do. With support from modern history makers like her, the STEM field will continue to focus on expanding opportunities to all Americans.