Have you ever had a dream of what you wanted to do in life? How about a wish that you hoped every day would come true? Were you ever truly inspired by something or someone at an early age that shaped the course of your life? Living a lifelong dream does not come to many, but for Dr. Mae Jemison, space travel was always an area of fascination. Space travel was her aspiration from an early age, and together with inspiration from astronaut predecessors Guy Bluford, Jr. and Sally Ride, Jemison not only achieved her goal of flying in space, but also did so as the first African American woman on September 12, 1992Jemison’s mother was a teacher and her father, a maintenance supervisor, while she grew up in Chicago. Jemison attended the Chicago Public School System and achieved honors in math and science. Although she had the support of her family, teachers and school staff discouraged Jemison from pursuing an education in science. Speaking to a crowd of students at her Chicago alma mater, Jemison recalled the propensity of some individuals to place her in a box. “Sometimes people want to tell you to act or to be a certain way. Sometimes people want to limit you because of their own limited imaginations.”
She attended Stanford University at the age of 16 and earned her bachelor’s degree in Chemical Engineering and African American Studies. She went on to receive her medical degree from Cornell University and served two years in the Peace Corps in West Africa as a staff physician. Her responsibilities there included managing the health care delivery system for the Peace Corps and the U.S. Embassy in Liberia and Sierra Leone. Her background includes research in nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy, reproductive biology, and a Hepatitis B and rabies vaccine.
In the wake of the Space Shuttle Challenger tragedy, Jemison left her private medical practice in Los Angeles and applied to become an astronaut candidate. She was one of 15 chosen from a pool of 2,000...
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