Wilhelm Reich was born on March 24, 1897, in the German-Ukranian part of Austria, as the son of a well-to-do farmer. His father died in 1914 and he served at the Italian front in the Austrian Army from 1915 to 1918.
In 1918, he entered Medical School at the University of Vienna and obtained his M.D. degree in July, 1922. His postgraduate study included work in hypnosis and suggestive therapy. In October 1920, he became a member of the Vienna Psychoanalytic Society. He began psychoanalytic and psychiatric private practice in 1922 working at Freud's Psychoanalytic Polyclinic in Vienna. He developed his own ideas about analytic technique, particularly "transference" and "resistance" and insisted on the importance of orgasmic potency as the defining characteristic of non-neurotic humanity. These ideas were too extreme for Freud who broke with him in 1927 after which he tried to combine sexual education (often called "mental hygiene") and left-wing politics, first as a socialist and then in 1930 becoming a communist. He was dispelled from the Communist party in 1993 and the International Psychoanlytical Asssociation in 1934, I am unsure if this is to his credit or not.
Reich believed that sexual health was necessary for genuine morality and political progress, this was a very idealised conception of sexuality and human potentiality. His ideas evolved into the circular logic that only if you agreed with Reich and accepted his teachings could you have true orgasmic potency. It also meant that only those people who were dissatisfied with their orgasms would consider his teachings of value to them but that there would always be a group of followers dependent upon him. Reich severely criticised the rise of the Nazi Party and had to leave Germany quickly when they came to power. He went first to Denmark, then Sweden then Norway.
Now he "discovered" orgone energy, "a single energy that is experienced as emotions, that is released in sex, that generates life, and that is the basis for primary physical processes in nature and out into the cosmos." These "scientific" discoveries have never been accepted by conventional science and have been considered to be delusions except by Reich and his followers. In 1939, he came to the US and transferred the Orgone Energy Laboratory to Forest Hills, N.Y. The Orgone Institute was founded by Reich in 1942 in New York, and in the same year over 200 acres of land were acquired in Maine and called "Orgonon," the future home of Orgonomy, the Science of the Life Energy.
A writer and researcher who made explicit claims about sexual function and mental health was bound to make enemies in the USA of the 1950's but Reich's later arrest and gaol sentence was not caused by his sexual ideas. While continuing his "researches" which to an outsider now began to become more grandiose and resemble the claims of a megalomaniac he invented a rainmaker, discovered 'Deadly Orgone Energy' and something closely resembling perpetual motion machines. Unfortunately (for him) he also invented The Orgone Energy Accumulator, a relatively simple box with layers of varous materials which he claimed could cure all diseases including cancer if the patient spent regular time within it.
He was obviously a deluded crank or the greatest scientist and benefactor of humanity of all time, he had no false modesty and proudly proclaimed the second alternative. Rather than releasing plans for the constructions of these boxes through the media for all to use he began the manufacture, sale and rental of them despite not having any apparent need for extra funds. This contravened US law as only approved treatments are allowed to be sold for the cure of serious illness. In 1954, the Federal Food and Drug Administration initiated a complaint against him. He refused to accept the validity of the court action and was eventually sentenced to two years imprisonment on a contempt of court charge following a jury trial in May, 1956. He died of a heart attack in the Federal Penitentiary at Lewisburg, Pennsylvania on the 3rd November 1957 at age 60 years. I am not sure if he had an orgone accumulator in the cell but his use of them obviously hadn't cured his prior heart condition.
The Court also ordered his books to be destroyed, a mistake on their part that made Reich a martyr in some eyes.
Afte the 196o's there was an upsurge of interest in his ideas amongst conspiracy theorists, searchers for perpetual motion and some sections of the avant garde bohemians as could be expected.