“I had to learn very early not to limit myself due to others’ limited imaginations. I have learned these days never to limit anyone else due to my limited imagination.”
Dr. Mae Jemison
Mae Jemison hardly has time to think about it, but her contributions to people and the world are remarkable. The youngest of three children born to Charlie and Dorothy Jemison, she graduated from high school at 16 and went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering from Stanford University.
Then it was on to Cornell University to earn her Doctor of Medicine degree. While studying there, she took time off to travel and provide primary medical care to people in Kenya, Thailand, and Cuba.
Following graduation and medical degree under her arm, off she went with the Peace Corps, where she served as a medical officer in West Africa, Sierra Leone, and Liberia.
She was hardly through with her contributions. She came home and provided medical service as a general practitioner on the West Coast.
She believed she could do more.
She took graduate classes in engineering and applied to NASA; she wanted to be an astronaut. She was not selected on her first application, but on her second, she was named science mission specialist on STS-47 Spacelab. It would be a co-venture with Japan.
Competition for the assignment was fierce: There were more than 2,000 applicants.
Dr. Jemison set off on an eight-day mission, a total of 190 hours in space. After returning from space and getting her feet settled on terra firma, Dr. Jemison wasted no time. She resigned from NASA and founded Jemison Group, Inc. The business plan called for researching, developing, and implementing advanced technologies. Not advanced technologies that would land her on the business pages of the Washington Post, but technologies to advance the plights of individual and developing countries. She wanted to develop and implement technologies that would make a difference for the individual. She wanted her work to better political, cultural, economic skills and experience for individuals.
To list all that Dr. Jemison has done would require a small book, but here are a few of the associations, honors and awards bestowed upon her: subject of a PBS documentary; guest spot in an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation; Board of Directors, Houston UNICEF; Trustee, Spelman College; National Research Council Space Station Review Committee; Montgomery Fellow, Dartmouth; National Medical Association Hall of Fame; United Nations presentation on the international use of space; CORE Outstanding Achievement Award; National Women’s Hall of Fame.
Dr. Jemison has been honored by many other organizations, has worked tirelessly and brilliantly for all citizens of the world, and partially explains it all when she says, “I had to learn very early not to limit myself due to others’ limited imaginations. I have learned these days never to limit anyone else due to my limited imagination.”
Let us lift a glass to Dr. Jemison and give thanks for her and her work.