Széchenyi Prize-winning Hungarian sociologist. István Kemény was a member of the Teleki Pál Research Institute from 1947 to 1948. Afterwards he worked as a high school teacher from 1948-1957. In 1957 he was imprisoned for two years. From 1959-1961 he was working as a translator. From 1970-1973 he was a member of the Institute for Sociology at the Hungarian Academy of Sciences.

In 1971 he carried out the first representative survey on Hungarian Roma. In 1973 he was banned from publications. Between 1973 and 1976 he worked as a freelance sociologist. In 1977 he left Hungary and emigrated to Paris where he was working for the Maison des Sciences de l’Homme (1978-1981), and for the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales (1983-1990), and he was also the editor of the Hungarian Booklets (Magyar Füzetek).

In 1994 he received a doctoral degree of sociology. He was awarded with several prizes, such as: Nagy Imre memorial plaque (1994), Deák Ferenc award (2003), Széchenyi Prize (2003).
It was due to Kemény that researches about the Roma and poverty began in Hungary in the late sixties. His work was not supported by the then political system and therefore he had to choose emigration for thirteen years. Returning to Hungary he continued his research about the living conditions of Roma people. He made social political recommendations after his research results and encouraged the participation of the Roma in adult education.