When and where was she born?
Mae was born in Alabama, USA on 17 October 1956. Mae Jemison continues to promote science education especially for minority students through many different programmes including in a forum with Michelle Obama.
Fun facts about her life
- Mae was the first African American woman to become an astronaut. In 1992 she spent a week orbiting the Earth in the space shuttle Endeavour;
- To investigate the effect of weightlessness, she made observations from tadpoles.
- She has written several books for children and appeared on TV including in Star Trek!
- She has been made into a Lego figure and been on a postage stamp!
- She loves dance and has choreographed and produced several dance shows of modern jazz and African dance.
What’s important about her scientific work?
Jemison graduated from Stanford University with degrees in chemical engineering and African and African-American studies before training to be a doctor at Cornell Medical School. She worked for the Flying Doctors stationed in East Africa and then served with the Peace Corps looking after volunteers serving in Liberia and Sierra Leone.
On June 4, 1987, Jemison became the first African American woman to be admitted into the NASA astronaut training programme. After more than a year of training, she became the first African American woman astronaut. Her job was to conduct experiments on the crew (and herself) during space travel on things like weightlessness and motion sickness.
What do we know about her childhood?
Mae’s family moved to Chicago when she was three looking for better educational advantages as Alabama in the 1950s was segregated and did not offer equal opportunities for African Americans. She was introduced to science by her uncle and was fascinated by anthropology, archaeology, evolution an astronomy. She went to University when she was only 16!
What struggles did she face?
- When she told her school teacher she wanted to be a scientist, the teacher replied “don’t you mean a nurse?”.
- Mae was often the victim of racism. In 1996 she was stopped by the Police for a traffic violation in Texas, and physically and emotionally abused.
What has she achieved?
- In addition to her many qualifications she also carries honorary degrees from 10 different institutions in Humanities, Science and Engineering.
- Mae has been inducted in the National Women’s Hall of Fame and the International Space Hall of Fame.