Daniel Keyes was born in Brooklyn, New York, August 9, 1927, and was educated at Brooklyn College, where he received a B.A. degree in 1950. After graduation, Keyes worked briefly as an associate editor for the magazine Marvel Science Fiction while pursuing his own writing career; he later taught high school English in Brooklyn. In 1952 he married Aurea Georgina Vazquez, with whom he had three children. Keyes returned to Brooklyn College, received an M.A. degree in 1961, and went on to teach English on the university level, first at Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan, and then at Ohio University, where in the 1970s he became Professor of English and director of the university’s creative writing center.
Keyes was still teaching high school English when he first published the work that would make his reputation. The original short story version of “Flowers for Algernon” appeared in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction in 1959. After the story won the Hugo Award for best science fiction story of the year and was adapted as a television drama, Keyes expanded the story into a novel, published in 1966. The novel won the Nebula Award of the Science Fiction Writers of America (tying with Samuel R. Delany’s Babel-17) and was filmed in 1968 as Charly. The film was a notable success, earning Cliff Robertson an Academy Award. After the popular and critical success of “Flowers for Algernon,” Keyes continued to write while pursuing a full-time career in English academics. He published two other novels, The Touch (1968) and The Fifth Sally (1980), and the nonfiction works The Minds of Billy Milligan (1981) and Unveiling Claudia: A True Story of a Serial Murder (1986). Both The Minds of Billy Milligan and The Fifth Sally share with Flowers for Algernon a concern with extraordinary psychological states, as both books examine the phenomenon of multiple personalities. Indeed, Keyes was able to write his book on Billy Milligan-the first person in the United States ever acquitted of a major felony on the grounds of multiple personalities-only after several of Milligan’s selves read Flowers for Algernon and agreed to work with the author.