The first President of the Republic, Sveinn Björnsson, was born in Copenhagen on 27 February 1881 and died on 25 January 1952. His wife, Georgia Björnsson, was born on 18 January 1884 and died on 18 September 1957. Sveinn was elected Regent of Iceland by the Alþingi in 1941, and President of Iceland, also by the Alþingi, on 17 June 1944 at the ceremony at Þingvellir when the Republic was established. He was then elected by the nation, without opposition, in 1945 and again in 1949. He died in office in 1952.
Sveinn Björnsson matriculated in 1900 and took his degree in Law at the University of Copenhagen in 1907. He was a member of the Reykjavík City Council from 1912 to 1920, when he was appointed Ambassador to Denmark, a position in which he served until 1924 and again from 1926 to 1941.
Sveinn was one of the founders of Eimskipafélag Íslands, the leading shipping company in Iceland, in 1914 and its chairman 1914-1920 and 1924-1926. He was the founder of the insurance company Brunabótafélag Íslands and its director from its foundation in 1916 until 1920. He was also one of the founders of the insurance company Sjóvátryggingarfélag Íslands in 1918 and its chairman in 1918-1920 and 1924-1926. Sveinn was one of the founders of the Icelandic Red Cross on 10 December 1924 and its first chairman, serving until 1926.