Björnsson, Sveinn(svān byörn`sôn), 1881–1952, Icelandic diplomat and political leader, first president of Iceland (1944–52). A distinguished lawyer, he was elected to the Althing (Icelandic parliament) for the first time in 1914. From 1912 to 1920 he was president of the Reykjavík city council. During World War I, Björnsson undertook numerous diplomatic missions to Great Britain and the United States and afterward served as minister to Denmark (1920–41). He was regent of Iceland from 1941 to 1944, when, on Iceland's independence from Denmark, he became president. He was reelected in 1945 and 1949.
Born Feb. 27, 1881, in Copenhagen; died Jan. 24, 1952, in Reykjavík. Icelandic statesman. A lawyer by education.
From 1914 to 1916 and 1919 to 1920, Björnsson was a deputy to the Althing. In these same years he occupied managerial positions in various Icelandic companies and banking establishments. From 1920 to 1924 and 1926 to 1940 he was Icelandic ambassador to Denmark. From 1941 to 1944 he was regent of Iceland, and on June 17, 1944, when Iceland was proclaimed a republic, he became its first president. In 1949 he was reelected for a second term.