Christiansen first taught at the local polytechnical school. In 1886 he was appointed to a chair for physics at the University of Copenhagen.
He mainly studied radiant heat and optical dispersion, discovering the Christiansen effect (Christiansen filter). He found numerous absorption spectra with abnormal dispersion, among them aniline red.
In 1884 he confirmed the Stefan–Boltzmann law.
Christiansen was elected a member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences in 1902.
He was doctoral advisor to Niels Bohr.
- C. Christiansen, Lærebog i fysik, Copenhagen, 1892
- C. Christiansen, Indledning til den mathematiske Fysik, 2 Bde, 1887-1889
- C. Christiansen, Untersuchungen über die optischen Eigenschaften von fein vertheilten Körpern - Erste Mittheilung, Ann. Phys., Vol. 23, pp. 298–306, 1884
- C. Christiansen, Untersuchungen über die optischen Eigenschaften von fein vertheilten Körpern - Zweite Mittheilung, Ann. Phys., vol. 24, pp. 439–446, 1885
- C. Christiansen Elements of Theoretical Physics translated into English by W. F. Magie from the German translation of Muller (London, McMillan, 1897)
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