Ayn Rand

About the Author

Synopsis

Born Alisa Zinov'yevna Rosenbaum; Feburary 2 1905 – March 6, 1982) was a Russian-American novelist, philosopher,playwright, and screenwriter. She is known for her two best-selling novels, The Fountainhead andAtlas Shrugged, and for developing a philosophical system she called Objectivism. Born and educated in Russia, Rand moved to the United States in 1926. She had a play produced on Broadway in 1935–1936. After two early novels that were initially unsuccessful in America, she achieved fame with her 1943 novel, The Fountainhead.

Early Life

Ayn Rand was born in St. Petersburg, Russia, on February 2, 1905. At age six she taught herself to read and two years later discovered her first fictional hero in a French magazine for children, thus capturing the heroic vision which sustained her throughout her life. At the age of nine she decided to make fiction writing her career. Thoroughly opposed to the mysticism and collectivism of Russian culture, she thought of herself as a European writer, especially after encountering Victor Hugo, the writer she most admired.

Schooling

During her high school years, she was eyewitness to both the Kerensky Revolution, which she supported, and—in 1917—the Bolshevik Revolution, which she denounced from the outset. In order to escape the fighting, her family went to the Crimea, where she finished high school. The final communist victory brought the confiscation of her father’s pharmacy and periods of near-starvation. When introduced to American history in her last year of high school, she immediately took America as her model of what a nation of free men could be.

PHILOSOPHER

To create her unusual stories and characters, Rand had to define the new ideas and principles that guide her heroes. She had to create a new philosophy. “I am interested in philosophical principles,” she wrote, “only as they affect the actual existence of men; and in men, only as they reflect philosophical principles.” For Rand, philosophy is not an esoteric subject but a daily force shaping individual lives and human history. You must have some view of the kind of world you live in, of how best to understand and deal with it, and of what to aim at in life. Your only choice is whether your philosophical premises are acquired by your own independent thinking or absorbed unquestioningly from those around you. Formally, Rand called her philosophy “Objectivism,” but informally she called it “a philosophy for living on earth.”


Major accomplishments

1913Attends first motion picture exhibition in St. Petersburg

1917Witnesses first shots of February revolution

1918Discovers writings of Victor Hugo To escape civil war, family moves to Ukraine (fall) and then Yevpatoria, Crimea (spring)

1921Graduates from Yevpatoria High School #4 (June 30) Family returns to Petrograd Enrolls in Petrograd State University (circa August 24) Discovers the works of Nietzsche (1921–22)

1924Discovers Viennese operettas Graduates from Leningrad State University (October 13) Enrolls in State Technicum for Screen Arts (October 15)

1927Hired by DeMille as junior screen writer (circa June 11)

1929Marries Frank O’Connor (April 15) Hired by RKO wardrobe department

1931Becomes U.S. citizen (March 13)
1982Writes her last page of “Atlas Shrugged” teleplay (January 1) Dies in New York City (March 6)