Ayn Rand was born in 1905 in St. Petersburg, Russia. Her abhorrence of collectivism and admiration for the heroic individualist emerged at an early age, when her father's business was confiscated by the Bolsheviks following the 1917 Revolution, according to the Ayn Rand Institute in Irvine, California.
Rand immigrated to the United States in 1926 and made her way to Hollywood. There, she wrote screenplays and plays before turning to novels. She published We the Living in 1936, The Fountainhead in 1943, and Atlas Shrugged in 1957. When The New York Times panned that last book, a young Alan Greenspan, the future chairman of the Federal Reserve, wrote a letter to the editor defending Rand, whom he considered a mentor.
Rand's characters embody a philosophy she called "objectivism," a worldview that eschewed religion but gave a big thumbs-up to facts, reason, capitalism, and rational self-interest. "Until and unless you discover that money is the root of all good," Rand wrote in Atlas, "you ask for your own destruction. When money ceases to be the tool by which men deal with one another, then men become the tools of men. Blood, whips, and guns-or dollars. Take your choice-there is no other." Rand died in New York City in 1982.
LEIGH BUCHANAN is an editor at large for Inc. magazine. A former editor at Harvard Business Review and founding editor of WebMaster magazine, she writes regular columns on leadership and workplace culture. @LeighEBuchanan