Sigurðsson, Jón(yōn sĭ`khürthsōn), 1811–79, Icelandic statesman and historian. A student in Copenhagen from 1833, he developed an interest in Icelandic literature and history, on which he became the outstanding authority. He was active in many learned societies, which published his editions of the sagas and other literary works. As secretary (1840), later president (1851), of the Icelandic Literary Society, he directed the publication of monumental studies in Icelandic history and literature; he began the series Diplomatarium Islandicum in 1857. He served twice (1849–57, 1865–79) as president of the Althing, or parliament, but his journalistic activity was his great contribution to the Icelandic political revival. In 1841 he founded the periodical Ny felagsrit, the most influential Icelandic political journal, which endured until 1873. The constitution granted to Iceland in 1874 was largely the result of Sigurðsson's efforts, as was the grant of free trade (1854). During most of these years he lived in Copenhagen, the leader of a group of Icelandic writers, scholars, and diplomats.
Born June 17, 1811, in the village of Rafnseyri, in western Iceland; died Dec. 7, 1879, in Copenhagen; buried in Reykjavik. Icelandic statesman and historian; a fighter for Iceland’s national independence.
Sigurđsson studied at the University of Copenhagen from 1833 to 1835. He was a member of the Althing beginning in 1845 and its president beginning in 1851. From 1835 to 1855 he waged a struggle for the granting of regional autonomy to Iceland and for the establishment of a true union with Denmark modeled after the Swedish-Norwegian union of 1814. In the late 1840’s he insisted on Iceland’s legal right to complete autonomy and separation from Denmark. Sigurđsson, the author of the Icelandic constitution of Jan. 5, 1874, is known as the father of Icelandic independence. As a historian, he is famed for his editions of sources on ancient Icelandic history.