Touschek was born and attended school in Vienna. In 1937, he was not allowed to finish high school since his mother was Jewish. He passed the final year exam in a different school as an external pupil. Shortly after he started studying physics and mathematics at the University in Vienna, he again had to quit for racial reasons. Thanks to a couple of friends, he could keep on studying in Hamburg, where nobody knew of his origins. In order to make a living, he took up several jobs at the same time.
During this period, he worked at the Studiengesellschaft für Elektronengeräte, a company affiliated to Phillips, where "drift tubes" - the forerunners of the klystron - were being developed at that time. In 1943, he asked Rolf Wideroë to cooperate with him in building a betatron. When Touschek was arrested by the Gestapo in 1945, Wideroë visited him in prison, and during these meetings they continued to talk about the betatron. In particular, they conceived the idea of radiation damping for electrons circulating in a betatron.
Touschek escaped the concentraion camp he was held in largely by chance. After the war, he graduated fro mthe University of Göttingen in 1946 and began to work at the Max Planck Institute. In 1947, he left for Glasgow on a fellowship. He was subsequently appointed an Official lecturer in Natural Philosophy at the University of Glasgow, a position he kept until he left for Rome in 1952. He decided to stay in Rome permanently, receiving the position of researcher at the Istituto Nazionale di Fisica Nucleare.
Touscheck died in Innsbruck in 1978.