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Bust of Björg C. Þorláksson

    Dr. Björg C. Þorláksson (b. Vesturhópshólar, Iceland, 1874 – d. 1934, Copenhagen, Denmark) was an academic and researcher who in 1926 became the first Icelandic woman to receive a doctorate. She left Iceland for Denmark for her education in 1897, attempted to get into an Icelandic college but was refused, completed her studies in Denmark and graduated with a cand. phil. in philosophy from the University of Denmark in 1902. She married an Icelander in 1903, Sigfús Blöndal, and worked alongside him in Copenhagen on the 20-year project of an Icelandic-Danish dictionary (for which he received both all the credit and an honorary doctorate from the University of Iceland) and was an active writer and translator. She was 47 years old when she started her doctoral studies at the Sorbonne (Le Fondement Physiologique des Instincts: Des Systemes Nutritif, Neuromusculaire et Genital). She and Sigfús divorced while she was in France. After graduation, she applied for positions at the University of Iceland and Copenhagen University but was rejected at both. Her last years were extremely difficult: although she continued to publish, she suffered from poverty and malignant breast cancer, for which she sought treatment from Pariss Fondation Curie. Treatment was unsuccessful, but she was confined involuntarily in a French mental asylum for a year in 1930. She died in Copenhagen in 1934. Björg regularly visited Iceland, maintained her Icelandic identity and continued to publish in Icelandic (and other languages), but Copenhagen and Paris provided important opportunities for research and academic work not open to her in her home country as a woman.

    Address : Oddi building, Sturlugata 3, 101 University of Iceland, Reykjavík

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