Deutch was born in Brussels, Belgium, the son of Rachel Felicia (Fischer) and Michael Joseph Deutch. He is of Russian Jewishheritage, and became a United States citizen in 1945. He graduated from the Sidwell Friends School in Washington, D.C. and earned a bachelor's degree in History and Economics from Amherst College. In 1961, he earned a Bachelor of Science degree inChemical Engineering and, in 1966, he earned a PhD in Chemistry, both from Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He holds honorary degrees from Amherst College, University of Massachusetts Lowell, and Northeastern University.
From 1977 to 1980, he served in several positions for the United States Department of Energy (DOE): as Director of Energy Research, Acting Assistant Secretary for Energy Technology, and Undersecretary of the Department. In 1978, Deutch published two physical-chemistry papers (in, Combustion and Flame, 1978, vol 231 pp. 215–221 and 223-229) on modeling the mechanism of the Fuel/Air mixture. He served as the provost of MIT from 1985 - 1990. As MIT Dean of Science and Provost, Deutch oversaw the disbanding of the Department of Applied Biological Sciences, including its toxicology faculty.