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Daniel Keyes was born in 1927 in Brooklyn, New York. After working as a merchant seaman, he attended Brooklyn College, where he earned both bachelor’s and master’s degrees. He went on to become a fiction editor at Marvel Science Fiction and also worked as a high school teacher for developmentally disabled adults. Having periodically published science-fiction stories since the early 1950s, Keyes drew on his experience in the classroom and his love of science fiction to compose a short story called “Flowers for Algernon” in 1959.
The story, about a mentally challenged man whose IQ is tripled as the result of an experimental operation, was widely acclaimed and enormously popular. The story received one of science fiction’s highest honors, the Hugo Award, for best story of the year in 1959. Still interested in the character of Charlie and the ideas contained in the short story, Keyes set out to enlarge “Flowers for Algernon” into a full-length novel. The result, published in 1966, won the Nebula Award—science fiction’s other highest honor—for best novel of the year and expanded dramatically on the popularity of the short story.
Keyes continued to write throughout his life, and also worked as an English and creative writing professor at Ohio University. He died in 2014.