Magnús Magnússon

Magnús Magnússon

name = Magnús Magnússon

image_size =
caption =
birth_date = birth date|1929|10|12|df=y
birth_place =
death_date = death date and age|2007|1|7|1929|10|12|df=y
death_place = Balmore, Dunbartonshire, Scotland
death_cause = Pancreatic cancer
known_for = Mastermind presenter, translation work
occupation = Television presenter, journalist, translator and writer
religion =
nationality =
children = Sally Magnusson

Magnús Magnússon KBE (IPA2|ˈmaknus ˈmaknuˌsɔn, October 12 1929 – January 7 2007) was an Icelandic television presenter, journalist, translator and writer. He was born in Iceland but lived in Scotland for nearly all of his life, although he never took British citizenship. He came to fame as presenter of the BBC television quiz programme "Mastermind", which he hosted for 25 years.

Early life

Magnússon was born in Reykjavík but grew up in Edinburgh, where his father, Sigursteinn Magnússon, was the Icelandic consul. Under Icelandic naming conventions, his name would have been Magnús Sigursteinsson (Magnús, son of Sigursteinn), but his family adopted British naming conventions and used his father's patronymic. He was schooled at the Edinburgh Academy.



After graduating from Jesus College, Oxford, Magnússon became a reporter with the "Scottish Daily Express" and "The Scotsman". He went freelance in 1967, then joined the BBC, presenting programmes on history and archeology as well as appearing in news programmes. He was Lord Rector of Edinburgh University from 1975 to 1978, and later became Chancellor of Glasgow Caledonian University.


Magnússon presented the long-running quiz show "Mastermind" from 1972 to 1997. The popularity of the show made him one of the best-known faces of the BBC. His famous catchphrase, which the current presenter John Humphrys has continued to use, was "I've started so I'll finish".

Magnússon made a one-off cameo appearance as himself, hosting Mastermind in the children's series Dizzy Heights.


Magnússon translated a variety of books from modern Icelandic and Old Norse into English. Among these are several works by Halldór Laxness, the Nobel prize-winning novelist from Iceland, and a number of Norse sagas which he co-translated (with Hermann Pálsson) for the Penguin Classics series: "Njal's Saga" (1960), "The Vinland Sagas" (1965), "King Harald's Saga" (1966) and "Laxdaela Saga" (1969). Magnússon was also the author of a popular history of the Viking era, called "The Vikings" (revised edition, 2000).

Awards & Charity positions

Magnússon was awarded an honorary knighthood (Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire) in 1989, and was elected President of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds for a five-year period, at their 94th AGM in October 1995, succeeding Max Nicholson. He also became the founder Chairman of Scottish Natural Heritage upon its inception in 1992.

In 2002 he became Chancellor of Glasgow Caledonian University.

Later life

In the early years of the 21st century, Magnússon also wrote for the "New Statesman."cite web |url= |title= Articles by Magnus Magnusson |format= html |work= New Statesman |quote= ]

On October 12 2006, his 77th birthday, Magnússon was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Magnússon mordantly noted that "this has to be one of my worst birthdays ever". His condition meant he was forced to cancel a string of public appearances. He died on January 7 2007. [cite news
title =Magnusson faces cancer treatment
publisher =BBC
date =2006-10-12
url =
accessdate =
] [cite news
title =TV's Magnus Magnusson dies at 77
publisher =BBC
date =2007-01-08
url =
accessdate =
] [cite news
title =Obituary: Magnus Magnusson
publisher =BBC
date =2007-01-08
url =
accessdate =


Magnússon was married to Mamie Baird.

Magnússon's eldest son, "Siggi", died in a traffic accident in 1973. His eldest daughter, Sally Magnusson, is a television presenter, mainly in Scotland, although in the 1980s she worked for BBC South East News. She is also a regular presenter of "Songs of Praise". Jón, another offspring, is a television comedy producer. Daughter Margaret is a television executive and Anna Magnusson is a senior Scottish radio producer and broadcaster on religious affairs.


Magnússon was noted as being one of the very few television presenters to keep their private address and phone number listed in the public telephone directory. He was also noted as a keen supporter of Manchester United F.C.


*"Fakers, Forgers and Phoneys: Famous Scams and Scamps" (2005), ISBN 978-1845961909
*"Scotland: The Story of a Nation" (2000), ISBN 978-0006531913
*"The Vikings" (1980), ISBN 978-0752426990
*"Iceland Saga" (2005), ISBN 978-0752433424
*"Lindisfarne" (2004), ISBN 978-0752432274
*"Keeping Your Words: An Anthology of Quotations" (2005), ISBN 978-0340862643
*"Scotland Since Prehistory: Natural Change and Human Impact" (1993), ISBN 978-1898218036
*"I've Started So I'll Finish" (1998), ISBN 978-0751525854
*"Viking Expansion Westwards" (1973), ISBN 978-0809835294
*"BC The Archaeology of the Bible Lands" (1977), ISBN 978-0671240103
*"The Clacken and the Slate" (1974), ISBN 0-00-411170-2


External links

*imdb name|id=0536392|name=Magnús Magnússon
* [ Obituary on the BBC website]
* [ Magnús Magnús - Tribute]

NAME=Magnússon, Magnús
SHORT DESCRIPTION=Icelandic television host
DATE OF BIRTH=October 12, 1929
PLACE OF BIRTH=Reykjavík, Iceland
DATE OF DEATH=January 7, 2007
PLACE OF DEATH=Glasgow, Scotland

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