Ferenczi was born in Miskolc, Austria-Hungary in 1873, one of 12 children. He trained as a psychiatrist and, after meeting Sigmund Freud in 1908, focused on psychoanalysis. Freud and Ferenczi became close friends and collaborators, and their relationship lasted for over twenty years, despite Ferenczi’s later radical departure from the classical Freudian model. He was Klein’s first psychoanalyst, and his ideas about object relations had a strong impact on Klein’s thinking about the child’s early experiences of the external world, above all its relationship to the mother and the mother’s body.
Ferenczi founded the Hungarian Psychoanalytic Society in 1913. He was president of the International Psychoanalytical Association from 1918 until 1919.
He died in 1933 at the age of 60, from pernicious anaemia.