Curriculum Vitae

Leó Kristjánsson
September 2013

Personal details

Born 26 July 1943 at Ísafjörður, NW-Iceland. Icelandic citizen.
Married to Elín Ólafsdóttir, Ph.D., M.D., formerly at the National Hospital of Iceland and the Icelandic Heart Association.

Kristján Leósson (b. 1970), physicist, Ph.D. Physics Div., Science Inst. Univ. of Iceland
Margrét Leósdóttir (b. 1975),
M.D., Ph.D. cardiologist at the University Hospital in Malmö, Sweden.


Secondary school education at the Akureyri Grammar School, Iceland (Maths/Physics division) completed in 1962.

B.Sc. Honours degree in Physics, University of Edinburgh, U.K., 1966. Ancillary subjects: Mathematics, Mathematical Physics, Chemistry.

M.Sc. degree in Geophysics from the School of Physics, University of Newcastle upon Tyne, U.K., 1967.

Ph.D. degree in Geophysics from the Physics Department, Memorial University of Newfoundland, Canada, 1973. Supervisor: E.R. Deutsch. Title of thesis: A magnetic study of Tertiary igneous rocks from Greenland, Baffin Island and Iceland.

Professional positions

Full-time teacher at the Akureyri Grammar School 1967-68. Full-time research scientist at the Science Institute, University of Iceland in the academic year 1968-69, and from 1971 until retirement in 2013. Permanently appointed from 1974, promoted to Senior Research Scientist in 1987 and Research Professor in 1994.


Temporarily on leave from research position and appointed Associate Professor in Geophysics at the Physics Department, University of Iceland for the Spring semesters of 1975 and 1983. Professor of Geophysics in 1991-94 and for short periods later. From 1971 part-time instructor in several courses at the Faculties of Engineering and Science, including Physics I & II, Classical Mechanics, Thermodynamics, Electromagnetism, Introductory Geophysics, Marine Geoscience, etc. External examiner in Physics and Astronomy at various schools and colleges in Iceland, mostly in 1972-82. Participant in the training of Icelandic secondary school students for the International Physics Olympiad on several occasions; contributor to the problems set at the Olympiad when held in Reykjavik in 1998.

Research interests

  1. Magnetic properties of the basalt lava sequences of Iceland: especially, the application of paleomagnetic directions in stratigraphy, and the analysis of directions and intensities in terms of properties of the geomagnetic field during the last 15 million years.

  2. Magnetic anomalies in Iceland and the surrounding region, and the geological interpretation of these with the aid of magnetic property information.

  3. The history of research and teaching in the natural sciences in Iceland. In particular, the role played by Iceland spar crystals in the development of international science during the interval 1780-1930.


Author or co-author of about 90 papers in peer-reviewed professional journals on geoscience in English. Chief topics: paleomagnetism, volcanic stratigraphy, and magnetic surveys. Numerous reports, popular-science articles, bibliographies, book reviews, papers on topics in science education and science history, etc., mostly in Icelandic.


Research maintained through basic Government operating grants to the Science Institute. Support for equipment and individual projects mostly from the Research Funds of the National Research Council of Iceland, and the University of Iceland Research Fund. Occasional funding from other sources including an Alexander von Humboldt Fellowship in 1976 (Ludwig Maximilian University in Munich, 6 months), a Fulbright Research Scholarship in 1983 (Oregon State University, 3 months), and support from the Parliament of Iceland for a 3-month stay in Copenhagen in 2000.

Research collaborators, 1971-2013

Scientists at various Icelandic institutions and companies incuding the University of Iceland, the National Energy Authority/ Iceland GeoSurvey, the Marine Research Institute, and JTS Geological Services Ltd. Scientists at foreign universities such as the University of Rhode Island, Oregon State University, the University of Hawaii, the Australian National University, Aarhus University in Denmark, and the University of Edinburgh.

Societies, committees, administration, editing (partial list)

Member of the American Geophysical Union from 1970, appointed “Fellow” in 2002. Elected member of Societas Scientiarum Islandica 1976. Member of the Geoscience, Physical and Glaciological Societies of Iceland. Editor of the Icelandic geoscience annual Jökull in 1980-85, 1990-94 and 2010-12 on the editorial board since 1994. Chairman of Physics Department, University of Iceland in 1992-93 (deputy chairman in 1991-92 and 1993-94). Head of the Geophysics Division of the Science Institute, University of Iceland, in 1978-83 and 1995-2000 (deputy head 2000-03). Member of the Research Grants Panel, NATO Science Committee, 1980-82. Icelandic representative on the EU science policy committee CODEST/ESTA 1992-94. Icelandic representative on the Ocean Drilling Program science committee ESCO, 1986-90. In charge of a NATO Advanced Study Institute on “Geodynamics of Iceland and the North Atlantic Area” in Reykjavik in 1974, edited its proceedings volume. Member or alternate member of National Research Council of Iceland funding committees, 1991-94 and 2003-06. Member of various personnel selection and promotion panels at the University of Iceland, as well as of committees overseeing the election of the University’s Rector in 1995 and 2003.