Donald Keene was born in Brooklyn, New York on June 18, 1922. He was a child prodigy and entered Columbia University on scholarship in 1938 at the age of 16. He received a bachelor's degree in 1942, a master's degree in 1947, and a doctoral degree in 1951 from Columbia. Shortly after Pearl Harbor, he enlisted in the Navy and volunteered to study Japanese. His first experience as a translator came in Hawaii, where he worked on routine military reports captured from Japanese units in the Pacific theater. He then became a wartime interrogator after the battle in Okinawa on April 1, 1945. After he was discharged, he taught at Columbia University for 56 years. Over his career, he translated many of the most important works of Japanese literature into English. He also wrote numerous books in both English and Japanese including Dawn to the West and Travelers of the Ages. In 1985, he became the first non-Japanese to receive the Yomiuri Prize for Literature for literary criticism. He became a Japanese citizen in 2012. He died on February 24, 2019 at the age of 96.