Today in History, September 12, 1992, Dr. Mae C. Jemison became the first woman of color to successfully travel into space. Dr. Jemison’s accomplishment came over three decades after the first American traveled to space and a decade after the first African American male did so. Through her historic accomplishment, Dr. Jemison made the dream of becoming an astronaut for woman of color a reality.
Born on October 17, 1956, Dr. Jemison was the youngest of three children. Although she was born in Decatur, Alabama she was raised in Chicago, Illinois. At the age of sixteen Jemison completed high school and at that same age she entered Stanford University on a scholarship. While an undergraduate she completed two majors, Chemical Engineering and African American Studies receiving her degrees in 1977. Interestingly enough the African American Studies Department at Stanford had began only 8 years prior. After graduating from Stanford she went on to Cornell University Medical School where four years (1981) later at the age of twenty-four she obtained a doctorate in medicine.
During medical school she showed a great interest in third world countries. In her efforts to contribute to these countries she traveled to Cuba, Kenya, and would later spend a medical clerkship in Thailand at a Cambodian Refugee Camp. Before joining NASA in 1987, Dr. Jemison also served as a general practitioner in Los Angeles and later became an Area Peace Corps Medical Officer for Sierra Leone and Liberia in West Africa.
Dr. Jemison joined NASA in 1987 and five short years after she was on her first flight to space. Jemison resigned from NASA in 1993 and created The Jemison Group, Inc., located in Houston, TX, to research, develop and implement advanced technologies suited to the social, political, cultural and economic context of the individual, especially for the developing world. This woman’s accomplishments are truly amazing and she serves as role model to current and future generations and that is why she is being recognized today in history.
For more information, see the Engineering Pathway‘s resources on the Dr. Mae C. Jemison. For related educational resources, visit our Engineering Education communities in all ABET-accredited disciplines and emerging interdisciplinary fields.