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Ayn Rand

Ayn Rand (Ayn rhymes with "mine") (February 2, 1905 - March 6, 1982), born Alissa Zinovievna Rosenbaum, was a controversial American philosopher and novelist, most famous for her philosophy of Objectivism.

US postage stamp honoring Rand (1999)

Ayn Rand was born to Jewish parents in Saint Petersburg, Russia. She studied philosophy and history at the University of Petrograd. In 1925, she was permitted by the Soviet government to leave the USSR briefly to visit her relatives in America. Although she was only allowed a brief visit, she was resolute never to return to Russia. When she arrived in America, at the age of 21, she stayed with relatives in Chicago for 6 months before moving to Hollywood to become a screenwriter. At this time she changed her name to Ayn Rand, suspecting that, if her anti-socialist views became famous in America, her family back in Russia might be persecuted by the Soviet government. In Hollywood, while working as an extra on Cecil B. DeMille's King of Kings she met Frank O'Connor by tripping him on purpose, and they married in 1929.

Frank O'Connor was an aspiring young actor doing bit-parts on Hollywood. His emerging career ended when the couple moved to New York in the mid-1930s and he was no longer available for Hollywood roles.

Initially Rand struggled in Hollywood and was forced to take odd jobs to pay her rent. Her first success came with the sale of her screenplay Red Pawn in 1932 to Universal Studios. Rand released The Night of January 16th, a play, in 1934, and published two commercially unsuccessful novels, We The Living [1] (1936), and Anthem [1] (1938).

Rand's first major success came with the best-selling novel The Fountainhead [1] (1943). The manuscript for this book was difficult to get into print. It was initially taken from publisher to publisher collecting rejection slips as it went before it was picked up by the Bobbs-Merrill Company publishing house. The book was so successful that the royalties and movie rights made Rand famous and financially secure.

In 1947, as a "friendly witness" in the House Committee on Un-American Activities, Rand testified against the activities of communist propagandists active in Hollywood [1]. Rand's testimony involved analysis of the 1943 film Song of Russia. Rand testified that the movie grossly misrepresented the socioeconomic conditions in the Soviet Union. She told the committee that the film presented Russia as if it were an amazing paradise of comfort, beauty and plenty for everybody. However, she said, in reality the conditions of the average Russian peasant farmer were appalling. Apparently this 1943 film was intentional wartime propaganda by US patriots. The tone of the movie was, at the time, intended to provide some comfort to the US public during their alliance with Russia toward the end of World War II. After the HUAC hearings, when Ayn Rand was asked about her feelings on the effectiveness of their investigations, she described the process as "futile".

In the early 1950s Rand moved to New York. She was a visiting lecturer at Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut (1960), Princeton University, New Jersey (1960), Columbia University, New York (1960, 1962), The University of Wisconsin (1961), Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore (1961), Harvard University, Cambridge (1962), and The Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge (1962).

In 1951 Rand met the young psychology student Nathaniel Branden [1], who had read her book The Fountainhead at the age of 14. Branden, now 19, enjoyed discussing Rand's emerging Objectivist philosophy with her. Branden's relationship with Rand eventually took on romantic aspects, though they were both married at the time.

Rand published the book described as her "magnum opus", Atlas Shrugged [1] in 1957. This book, as with The Fountainhead also became a best seller. According to a joint survey [1] conducted in 1991 by the Library of Congress and the Book of the Month Club, Atlas Shrugged is recognised as the "second most influential book for Americans today", after The Bible by numerous authors. It is also named as one of the "25 books that have most shaped readers lives" in a 19951996 list developed with the theme "Shape Your Future—READ!" Along with Branden, Rand launched the Objectivist movement to promote her philosophy, which she termed Objectivism.

Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, Rand developed and promoted her Objectivist philosophy through both her fiction [1] and non-fiction [1] works.

Rand broke with Branden in 1968.

Ayn Rand died on March 6, 1982 and was interred in the Kensico Cemetery, Valhalla, New York.

The Ayn Rand Institute, Center for the Advancement of Objectivism [1] has since registered the name Ayn Rand as a trademark, despite Ayn Rand's desire that her name never be used to promote the philosophy she developed. During her life Ayn Rand expressed her wishes to keep her name and the philosopy of Objectivism separate. It is understood that this was in order to assure the continued survival of the philosophy she developed once her own life was over.

Leonard Peikoff [1] is Rand's sole heir, and as such, he inherited her copyrights and manuscripts. He calls himself her "intellectual heir", and it is widely but falsely believed that she gave him that title, intending him to be an official leader of the Objectivist movement after her death. While he claims to be promoting and naturally extending her philosophies, some scholars see him as espousing his own philosophy, one that some argue Rand herself may not have agreed with were she still alive.

In 1989, a schism in the movement occurred. Objectivist David Kelley wrote an article called "A Question of Sanction," [1] in which he defended his choice to speak to non-Objectivist libertarian groups. Kelley said that Objectivism was not a "closed system" and condoned tolerance of and intellectual debate with other philosophies. Peikoff, in an article for The Intellectual Activist called "Fact and Value" [1], said that Objectivism is, in fact, closed and that factual truth and moral goodness are intrinsically related. Peikoff essentially expelled Kelley from the Objectivist movement, and Kelley founded The Institute for Objectivist Studies (now known as The Objectivist Center [1]) in Poughkeepsie, New York.

References (external links as numbered above)

  1. We the Living
  2. Anthem
  3. The Fountainhead
  4. Ayn Rand's HUAC Testimony
  5. Nathaniel Branden
  6. Atlas Shrugged
  7. The 1991 Library of Congress and Book of the Month Club Joint Survey
  8. Ayn Rand's Fiction
  9. Ayn Rand's Non-Fiction
  10. The Ayn Rand Institute, Center for the Advancement of Objectivism
  11. Leonard Peikoff
  12. "A Question of Sanction"
  13. '''"Fact and Value"
  14. The Objectivist Center

Additional external links