October 17 – Happy Birthday, Mae Jemison

Posted on October 17, 2013

Today's birthday girl is a minority of a minority of a minority.

And a first!

Only a tiny minority of Americans have ever been to space....between 300 and 400 people. And of those few hundreds of space travelers, only a small minority have been women...only 45. And of those women, only a small minority have been black...just three.

Mae Jemison was the first African American female astronaut to go to space, flying on the Space Shuttle Endeavor as a Mission Specialist in 1992.

I love this woman! She has been a dancer since age 11, and she learned everything from jazz and African dance to ballet and modern. She considered becoming a professional dancer but was also determined to be a scientist, and maybe a medical doctor—and she decided that dance was easier to enjoy as a hobby than doctoring!

Jemison went to prestigious Stanford University at age 16, and she majored in chemical engineering (although she faced discrimination in the field both as a woman and as a black person). She managed to earn a Bachelor of Arts Degree (a BA) in African and Afro-American Studies at the same time that she earned a Bachelor of Science Degree (a BS) in chemical engineering. She went on to get her Doctor of Medicine degree at another prestigious university, Cornell; she now has NINE honorary doctorates in science, engineering, letters, and the arts!!!

Jemison traveled all over the world to provide medical care to people while she was in med school! 
She studied at the Alvin Ailey dance school!
She worked in the Peace Corps! 
She took a poster from the Alvin Ailey Professional Dance Company on her space mission! 
When she left NASA, she founded her own company to research how technology can help the daily lives of the peoples of the world! 
She has a dance studio in her house! 
And, best of all, she acted in an episode of Star Trek: the Next Generation!

Okay, that Star Trek thing WASN'T best of all—I was just joking. The medical and helping people stuff, the astronaut and scientist stuff are all way more important than her foray into acting. But it was perhaps the most surprising thing I read about the wonderfully interesting Mae Jemison!

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