Eggert Ólafsson was the son of a farmer from Svefneyjar in Breiðafjörður. He studied natural sciences, Classics, Grammar, Law and Agriculture at the University of Copenhagen. He obtained a bachelor’s degree from the University of Copenhagen. In 1772 he published Reise igiennem Island (Travels in Iceland), an account of the scientific and cultural survey he conducted between 1752 and 1757. The book remains a seminal work on Iceland and its people.
Ólafsson and his wife, Ingibjörg Halldórsdóttir, drowned in 1768 when going back home from a winter sojourn in Sauðlauksdalur. Their boat capsized in Breida Bay off the northwest coast of Iceland.