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Kemal Karpat was born in Megdigia, Romania. After his graduation from İstanbul University Law School, he received his MA from the University of Washington and his Ph.D from New York University. After specializing in history in Romania he did research on American, Russian, Middle Eastern and Ottoman history. He worked for the United Nations Economic and Social Council and was a professor and administrator at Montana State University, New York University, Princeton, Robert College, Bilkent University, Harvard, Johns Hopkins and Columbia. He was the director of the Middle-Eastern studies department at the University of Wisconsin from 1970 to 1988.