Miklós Réthelyi was born in Zalaegerszeg on 8 June 1939.
He obtained his degree in Medicine from the Medical University of Pécs in 1963. In 1972 he became a general practitioner and professor at the Semmelweis Medical University's Institute of Anatomy, Histology and Embryology. In 1972 he obtained a candidate's degree in Biology (on the subject of the neural structure of spinal cord). He became a doctor of Medical Science in 1982.
From 1963 to 1986 at Budapest, and later Semmelweis Medical University he successively became a research student, assistant, senior lecturer and associate professor. Between 1986 and 1994 he was professor and deputy director of Anatomy Department II at Semmelweis Medical University. From 1990 to 1991 he was head of the Education Department at the Ministry of Welfare. For four years from 1991 he was Rector of Semmelweis Medical University; between 1995 and 2000 he was acting director of Semmelweis Medical University's Healthcare Management Training Centre. From 1998 for one year he was head of the Department for Scientific Affairs at the Ministry of Education. From 1994 to 2004 he was director of Semmelweis Medical University's Institute of Anatomy, Histology and Embryology. From 2002 to 2010 he was head of the Doctoral School of Neurosciences at Semmelweis University. He became a professor emeritus in 2010.
His honours include: the Award for Outstanding Work (from the Minister for Education and Health) in 1979 and 1989; the Medal for Outstanding Work (from SOTE) in 1982 and on two subsequent occasions; the Academy Award (from MTA, The Hungarian Academy of Sciences) in 1991; Doctor Honoris Causa, (from Kingston University, Great Britain) in 1993; Defence of the Nation Medal (First Class) in 1995 ; Middle Cross of the Hungarian Republic in 1996; Széchenyi Professorial Fellowship, 1998-2001; Albert Szent-Györgyi Award, 2004.
He is married, and has three children.