From Harvard Magazine:
Ayn Rand was finally getting her due. After Time magazine had called her masterpiece—the novel Atlas Shrugged—“a nightmare,” after the eminent philosopher Sidney Hook had savaged her in the New York Times Book Review, she had been invited to Harvard to present a paper on her philosophy of art. Her host, John Hospers, a rising young philosopher from Brooklyn College, belonged to the American Society for Aesthetics, which was meeting in Cambridge in October 1962.
Rand’s appearance at Harvard marked a pinnacle in her already astonishing career. Born Alisa Rosenbaum in St. Petersburg, the eldest daughter of affluent Jewish parents, she fled Russia in 1926, embittered by the Bolshevik Revolution, which had destroyed her family’s livelihood. Upon arrival in New York, she assumed the more glamorous nom de plume Ayn Rand and headed for Hollywood. Rand’s new name was the first of her many reinventions. She began as a hack Hollywood writer but then wrote two plays and a novel. Soon she was a political activist, too, working to defeat Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal, which she feared was only the first step toward communism in America. Her second novel, The Fountainhead, published in 1943, was treasured by a small band of conservatives who applauded her attack upon collectivism and her bold defense of selfishness. It was also a bestseller that vaulted Rand to literary fame, and would become a successful film six years later.