Ayn Rand, 1905 - 1982

portrait of Ayn Rand
Photo by Phyllis Cerf (1957)
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Born: 2 February 1905, Saint Petersburg, Russian Empire
Died: 6 March 1982, New York City

Born Alisa Zino'yevna Rosenbaum, the daughter of a Jewish pharmacist. Her intelligence meant that most of her friends were adults, and she formed an early appreciation for America based on the few films she saw. While she was not sympathetic to the Russian Revolution, it meant that women were allowed to enter the University of Petrograd for the first time; a member of that first class she graduated with honors in history in 1924. The next year she applied to visit relatives at Chicago, she left the next year, turning 21 at Berlin, and emigrated. She took the name Ayn Rand, the first based on a Finnish name (Ayna), the latter as her own abbreviation of her last name, based on its appearance in Cyrillic characters. The story that she took the name based on using a Remington-Rand typewriter appears to have no basis, particularly as she used the name well before Remington and Rand merged, and before any typewriters were sold under that name. One of her family owned a theater, allowing her to see a lot of movies for free, and she went to Hollywood to become a screen writer. Standing outside a studio entrance, Cecil B. DeMille offered her a lift, showed her the set of King of Kings, and hired her as an extra. Rand worked as an extra, script reader, and for a time was head of costumes for RKO. Most of her fiction was based on the concept of a "superman", which she saw as being possible only for an individual unrestrained by imposed obligations or standards. While in Hollywood she wrote The Fountainhead (1943), a novel which reached became a bestseller over the course of two years based only on word-of-mouth. She moved to New York City and spent almost a dozen years working on Atlas Shrugged, and spent most of the rest of her life developing the philosophy of Objectivism, the underpinning of all her fiction work, writing and lecturing. She died at home of heart failure.

Biography from Wikipedia and the Ayn Rand Institute

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