Ayn Rand, author, screenwriter and the originator of the philosophical theory of Objectivism is, in fact, Jewish. Rand was born Alisa Zinov’yevna Rosenbaum in 1905 to Zinovy Zacharovich and Anna Borisovna Rosenbaum, largely non-practicing middle-class Jews in St. Petersburg, Russia. At a young age she experienced Bolshevik tyranny when her father’s pharmacy was confiscated by the Soviets. In an attempt to free themselves from oppression, the family temporarily fled to Crimea and later returned to St. Petersburg. Rand immigrated to the United States in 1926 and after a chance meeting with film director Cecil B. DeMille, she landed a job as film extra and later, a script reader. Rand’s first literary success came in 1932 with the sale of her anti-Communist screenplay, Red Pawn, to Universal Studios.
Rand’s first major success came with the publication of 1943’s The Fountainhead. Both a romantic and philosophical novel, The Fountainhead traces the story of architect Howard Roark and his struggle against those who attempt to live through others. The novel became a worldwide success and continues to sell about 100,000 copies a year. After the success of her novel, Rand begin to engage in political activism, speaking in favor of individualism and free-market capitalism.
In 1957, Rand published her 1,100 page magnum opus, Atlas Shrugged, which advocates the core tenets of her theory of Objectivism. The plot involves a dystopian United States in which the creative industrialists, scientists and artists go on strike and retreat to a hideaway where they build an independent, free economy. Atlas Shrugged became another worldwide hit and continues to sell over 200,000 copies annually. In her later years, Rand formed “The Collective,” a group of intellectuals, including Alan Greenspan, that met to discuss philosophy and promote Objectivism. Rand died of heart failure in 1982 but her philosophy and writings have influenced generations of prominent minds including philosophers, economists, historians, artists and politicians.