Alisa Rosenbaum, who was to become Ayn Rand, was born into a wealthy family in St. Petersburg, Russia in 1905. Extremely precocious, she taught herself to read and at eleven decided to become a writer. In 1917, the youngster witnessed the beginnings of the Russian Revolution and the Bolshevik Revolution. Her family fled to the Crimea, where the future author finished high school, suffered near-starvation and the loss of her father's pharmacy. During her final year in high school, she studied American history and came to utilize America as a model to demonstrate what a free nation could accomplish. Also, Rand credits the hopeful writings of famous French novelist Victor Hugo with helping her survive her fatalistic view of Russian life.
After returning to St. Petersburg, Rand entered the University of Petrograd where she majored in philosophy and history, graduating in 1924. Immediately after, she began a program of screenwriting at the State Institute for Cinema Arts. The following year, Rand went to Hollywood, under the pretext of studying the business of making films. There, she met Cecil B. DeMille who hired her as a script reader. She also met and married her husband of fifty years, the actor, Frank O'Connor.
After years of struggle, in 1932 Universal Studios purchased Rand's first screenplay, Red Dawn, and that same year her first stage play, , Night of January 16th was produced on Broadway. The following year, she completed her autobiographical novel, We the Living, which was rejected by publishers until 1936 for being too anti-communist. In it, the heroine, the independent, freethinking Kira Arguonova who represents Rand, fiercely opposes the totalitarian state in which she lives. The novel forces the reader to question the virtue of the communist principles by demonstrating the fate of freethinking men and women in a totalitarian state. However, the novel did not sell well and it was not until , The Fountainhead was published in 1933 that the author gained a reputation as a major novelist.
The Fountainhead took seven years to write and was rejected twelve times before being accepted by Bobbs-Merrill. The novel made Ayn Rand world famous. In the character of Howard Roark, Rand constructs, using the virtues of what Rand saw as an ideal man, the ultimate champion of individualism, idealistic to a fault.
Rand wrote the screenplay for , The Fountainhead in 1943 but World War II delayed its release until 1948. In the meantime, Rand wrote the screenplays for , Love Letters and You Came Along before beginning , Atlas Shrugged in 1946. In 1951 she moved from Hollywood to New York City where she devoted herself entirely to the completion of the novel. The novel received harsh criticism, but word of mouth, as in the case of , The Fountainhead, insured its success.
In response to having lived under a communist dictatorship in Soviet Russia, in all her novels, Rand glorifies the heroism of the freethinking human mind. In 1957 Rand identified her "philosophy for living on earth?which is presented in , The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged as Objectivism. She also developed private writing courses the following year and helped develop an institute to teach Objectivism. For the rest of her life, Rand wrote nonfiction primarily for periodicals which in became collections that include , The Virtue of Selfishness, Capitalism: the Unknown Ideal and , The Romantic Manifesto. These books were in addition to her , Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology, which presents her theory of knowledge.
Rand died in 1982 while working on a television series of , Atlas Shrugged. In 1997, the documentary, Ayn Rand: A Sense of Life was nominated for an Academy Award and in 1999 a first-class postage stamp bearing her image was issued.