Born in Alabama on October 17, 1956, Jemison relocated with her family to Chicago at the age of three, where she grew up with an innate sense of curiosity about the world around her. She graduated high school at the age of 16 and attended Stanford University on a scholarship, earning her Bachelors of Science in chemical engineering and having fulfilled the requirements for a B.A. in African-American Studies. She served as head of the Black Students Union while at Stanford, and choreographed a musical and dance production.
Jemison earned her M.D. in 1981 at Cornell University and went on to serve as a Peace Corps medical officer before she applied to NASA’s astronaut program. She was one of only 15 candidates to be selected in 1987, out of approximately 2,000 who applied. On September 12, 1992, Jemison became the first African-American woman to travel in space. She was part of the first space shuttle mission after the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster, which was a joint mission between the U.S. and Japan.
Soon after the Endeavour mission, Jemison resigned from NASA to pursue other interests, including science and technology for daily life. She has taught and served as a professor at many universities such as Cornell University and Dartmouth College. She has published a memoir written for children, and the “True Book” science series. She also appeared in a guest role on the television show Star Trek: The Next Generation.
Throughout her career, Jemison has maintained a love for dance and the arts. She said she considers both science and dance to be “expressions of the boundless creativity that people have to share with one another.”