Born in 1877 in Germany, Abraham encountered psychoanalysis while training as a psychiatrist with Jung at the Burghölzli Mental Hospital in Zurich. He went on to become one of the pioneers of psychoanalysis, along with Freud, Jung, Jones and Ferenczi. Abraham’s most important and influential contributions to psychoanalysis are his theory of the pregenital phases of development, his concept of melancholia and obsessional neurosis, and his understanding of narcissism as an obstacle to analytic treatment. All of these ideas, in particular those around pregenital development and sadism, were to deeply influence Klein’s thinking, and to help her formulate her own brilliant picture of the child’s psychical experience.
Abraham founded the German Psychoanalytical Society in 1910, and analysed Klein for about 18 months from early 1924. He died in 1925, a year after being elected president of the International Psychoanalytical Association. He was only 48.