He was a son of David Ferreira (b. 1898) and wife Teresa de Jesus Ferro Mourão (b. 1907). He studied Romanic Philology in 1951 in the University of Lisbon and in 1957 became a Professor.
He married firstly Maria Eulália Barbosa Valentim de Carvalho, sister of Rui Valentim de Carvalho, of now EMI-Valentim de Carvalho label, and maternal aunt of Manuela Moura Guedes' first husband, by whom he had issue, and secondly Maria do Pilar de Jesus Barata, without issue.
In 2005, the University of Bari and the Instituto Camões dedicated to him the Cátedra David Mourão-Ferreira
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