Kristján Eldjárn

President of Iceland Vigdís Finnbogadóttir Ásgeir Ásgeirsson

Kristján Eldjárn
Kristján Eldjárn (1982).jpg
3rd President of Iceland
In office
1 August 1968 – 1 August 1980
Prime MinisterBjarni Benediktsson
Jóhann Hafstein
Ólafur Jóhannesson
Geir Hallgrímsson
Ólafur Jóhannesson
Benedikt Gröndal
Gunnar Thoroddsen
Preceded byÁsgeir Ásgeirsson
Succeeded byVigdís Finnbogadóttir
Personal details
Born(1916-12-06)6 December 1916
Tjörn í Svarfaðardal
Died13 September 1982(1982-09-13) (aged 65)
Cleveland, Ohio, United States
Spouse(s)Halldóra Eldjárn
Alma materUniversity of Copenhagen
University of Iceland
ProfessionTeacher, curator

Kristján Eldjárn (Icelandic: [ˈkʰrɪstjaun ˈɛltjaurtn̥]; 6 December 1916 – 13 September 1982) was the third President of Iceland, from 1968 to 1980.

His parents were Þórarinn Kr. Eldjárn, a teacher in Tjörn, and Sigrún Sigurhjartardóttir. He graduated in archaeology from the University of Copenhagen and taught at the University of Iceland. In 1957 he was awarded a doctorate for his research into pagan burials in Iceland. He was a teacher at the Akureyri Grammar School and the College of Navigation in Reykjavík, becoming a curator at the National Museum of Iceland in 1945 and its Director in 1947, a position he held until the 1968 presidential election.

In 1966–68 he hosted a series of educational TV programs on the (then new) Icelandic National Television (RÚV), in which he showed the audience some of the National Museum's artefacts and explained their historical context. These programs became quite popular, making him a well known and respected popular figure. This no doubt gave him the incentive needed to run in the 1968 presidential election as a politically non-affiliated candidate.

Starting as the underdog in the 1968 presidential election, running against Ambassador Gunnar Thoroddsen who initially had a 70% lead in the opinion polls, Kristján won 65.6% of the vote on a 92.2% voter turnout. He was re-elected unopposed in 1972 and 1976. In 1980 he decided not to run for another term, wanting to devote his remaining years entirely to continuing his lifelong academic work.

President Kristján Eldjárn died following heart surgery in Cleveland, Ohio on 14 September 1982.[1]

His son Þórarinn Eldjárn is one of Iceland's most popular authors, specializing in short stories, but also writing poetry and an occasional novel. His daughter Sigrún Eldjárn is also an author and illustrator of several children's books.


  1. ^ "Kristján Eldjárn, Former President of Iceland". The New York Times. Associated Press. 16 September 1982. Retrieved 22 June 2018.