Keyes was born in Brooklyn, N.Y. in 1927. He began his writing career as the editor of Marvel Science Stories. He later began writing comics himself even working under Stan Lee.
His most popular tale, “Flowers for Algernon” was initially published as a short story in 1959. It is narrated by Charlie Gordon, a young man with an IQ of 68 who cannot even spell his own name. Charlie undergoes an experimental surgery to increase his intelligence, first performed on the mouse Algernon with apparent success. Charlie becomes a genius, only to lose everything when the process reverses itself.
“Flowers for Algernon” the short story won the Hugo Award in 1960 and the novel won a Nebula Award in 1966. The novel went on to be adapted into an Academy Award-winning film starring Cliff Robertson in 1968.
After the success of “Flowers for Algernon,” Keyes taught at Ohio University. He also continued writing books, including “The Fifth Sally,” “The Minds of Billy Milligan,” “Unveiling Claudia,” and his memoir, “Algernon, Charlie, and I: A Writer’s Journey.”