Daniel Keyes | 'Algernon' author, 86
Algernon, first published as a short story in 1959, and later as a novel, is a series of journal entries by a low-IQ laborer named Charlie Gordon, who participates in experiments that triple his intelligence just as researchers did with a lab mouse named Algernon. As the protagonist reaches the height of his brainpower, the mouse's progress begins to reverse until he dies, a harbinger of what's to come for Charlie.
The short story won a Hugo Award for best short fiction, and the novel won a Nebula Award from the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. The book, which has sold more than five million copies, inspired the 1968 movie Charly, for which Cliff Robertson won the best-actor Oscar.
The author, a public school teacher, said in his autobiography, Algernon, Charlie, and I, that his most famous work would not have happened without the inspiration of a developmentally disabled boy who approached him and said, "Mr. Keyes, I want to be smart." - AP