Jemison was the youngest of three children; she was born in Decatur, Alabama, but was brought up in Chicago, Illinois. In 1977, she graduated from Stanford University with degrees in chemical engineering and Afro-American studies. She received a medical degree in 1981 from Cornell University. NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) selected Jemison for astronaut training in 1982.
In addition to her native English, Dr. Jemison speaks fluent Russian, Japanese, and Swahili. Jemison appeared on an episode of the TV show "Star Trek: The Next Generation" in 1993.
Dr. Jemison founded the International Science Camp in Chicago in 1994; it is a program designed to interest children in science and space. Jemison has practiced medicine in Western Africa and founded the Jemison Group to research an develop technology and the Jemison Institute for Advanced Technology in Developing Countries at Dartmouth College.