Dr. Bronner was born Immanuel Heilbronner in Heilbron, a city in Germany. His parents were rich Jewish soap-makers, and had been for several generations. Young Immanuel picked up on chemistry very quickly as a youth, but when he thought the Nazis were going to come to power, he left Germany and dropped the Heil from his name.
In America, he was quite successful, but when he recieved a single postcard from his father, saying simply "you were right," he became very depressed, knowing that his parents would probably be killed by the Nazis. His depression was so severe, that he was placed in a mental institution, and was given electro-shock until he went blind. Although insane and going blind, he saw a factory across from his mental hospital cell, and designed a design for gravity operated piping in that factory, and sent his plans off to the factory, and was paid for it.
After getting out of the mental hospital, still unstable, he met and fell in love with the illegitimate daughter of a nun. They ran away together to California, where Immanuel thought of killing himself. In a vision, an angel came to him, and told him that by making a healthy soap, and putting a message of peace and brotherhood on the label, he could help the world avoid the evils that had plagued his life.
He quickly started his own soap factory, and turned out a high-quality, healthy soap, known as Dr. Bronner's Soap. At the time, and to his death, he was never a PhD, but based on the quality of his soap, he certainly deserved to be called Doctor.
Many people have questioned exactly how sane or insane the good doctor was. His idiosyncratic prose style is seen by many as evidence of insanity, but I see it more as a sign of trying to write English when you are a German-speaking person. As for the many references to the Bible, European History, Mark Spitz and the Moral ABC's, I think that the more they are read, the more they can make sense. I would also say that if the Doctor appeared to go insane from having his family murdered, that is hardly an inappropriate reaction.
Doctor Bronner died peacefully in his sleep sometime in the mid-90's.