If we talk about behavioral endocrinology, many of us may not know exactly what it is. Well, it is the branch of science that studies the effect of the neuroendocrine system on behavior.

One of the most outstanding figures of this scientific branch was the American ethologist Frank A. Beach (1911-1988), who was responsible for developing much of his fundamental research, through works such as “Patterns of Sexual Behavior” (1951), one of his most recognized works.

In this article we will look at a biography of Frank A. Beach and review his most important contributions to this field of knowledge.

Frank A. Beach: who was it?

Frank Ambrose Beach (1911-1988) was an ethologist and psychobiologist of American origin, who was born on April 13, 1911 in Emporia (Kansas, United States) and who died on June 15, 1988, at the age of 77.

Because of his publications on the subject, many consider him the founder of behavioral endocrinology, a branch of endocrinology that studies the neuroendocrine system, as well as its effects on behavior.

For its part, aetiology is a branch of knowledge that is born of two sciences, biology and experimental psychology, and that is in charge of studying the behaviour of animals , either in a situation of freedom, in their natural environments or in artificial laboratory conditions.

Relevant data

Frank A. Beach is especially remembered for his contributions to the field, not only of aetiology, but also of psychobiology. In fact, he was one of the most outstanding figures of his generation in this second field of knowledge.

Frank focused on studying the sexual behaviour of animals, but also other types of instinctive behaviour (maternal and paternal behaviour or mating behaviour, for example). That is why Frank is considered one of the founders of behavioral endocrinology, along with William C. Young.

Origin and academic background

Frank A. Beah was the first of three children. His parents were Frank Ambrose Beach and Bertha Robinson Beach. He began studying psychology in Emporia. One of the figures who influenced him was James B. Stroud. He graduated in 1932 and was awarded a scholarship to do research in clinical psychology. Then he did his thesis on color vision in rats.

After completing his research, obtained another scholarship, this time at the University of Chicago, where he began working with psychologist Harvey Carr . Frank A. Beach worked with very important figures, among whom we will highlight the behavioural psychologist Karl Lashley.

Later, Frank moved again, due to financial problems; this time he went to Kansas, specifically to the Yates Center, where he would work as a high school teacher. It was in Kansas that he met his wife, although it was only for a short time.

Passion for research

Years later, in 1935, Frank A. Beach returned to the University of Chicago and finished his doctoral thesis; his topic was the role of neocortex in the innate maternal behaviour of rats .

During these years he married Anna Beth Odenweller, his second wife. With her he formed a family, and had two children: Susan and Frank. Unfortunately, Anna died in 1971, and Frank remarried, this time to Noel Gaustad.

In 1936, Frank began working (for one year) in the Cambridge laboratory of Karl Lashley, the behavioural psychologist he had already met. There he conducted research on sexual behaviour in animals.

Career path

Especially interested in animals, later Frank A. Beach left the more academic field (on a temporary basis) and started working at the American Museum of Natural History, in New York (USA), where he stayed for a total of ten years.

Frank is especially remembered for his contributions to a very specific field of knowledge: endocrinology and animal neurology. Specifically, he made numerous contributions in relation to the influence of the neuronal and endocrine system on animal behaviour .

After his time at the New York Museum, Frank started working at Yale University, thus returning to the academic world. He stayed there for ten more years, studying, among other things, the reproductive behavior of dogs.

Between the 50’s and 60’s, he worked as a professor of psychology at various universities, while continuing his research. In 1978, Frank A. Beach became Professor Emeritus, and in 1986 he received the APA Award for Distinguished Teaching in Biopsychology.

Outstanding works

One of the most outstanding and well-known works by Frank A. Beach, in addition to being a classic in his field, is Patterns of Sexual Behaviour (1951), which he produced together with the anthropologist Clellan S. Ford. Another of his outstanding works is Sexualidad humana en cuatro perspectivas (1977).

Beyond his two main works, we also find important publications and books by the author. Some of them are:

  • The Pedagogical Seminary and Journal of Genetic Psychology (1937)
  • Hormones and Behavior: A Survey of the Interrelationship Between Endocrine Secretions and Open Response Patterns (1948)
  • The Snark was a Boojum, American psychologist (1950)
  • Effects of early experience on animal behavior, Psychological Bulletin (1954)
  • The Essence of Instinct, Psychological Review (1955)
  • Locks and Beagles, American psychologist (1969)

Death and Legacy

The great contribution that Frank A. Beach made to the field of psychobiology, and also to that of behavioral neuroendocrinology, is undeniable. Frank spent his whole life researching, teaching and learning .

We see it through a phrase of his, which says: “Increasing knowledge, in itself, is a justifiable way of spending one’s life”.

Thus, he focused his life on studying behavior; in fact, another of his famous phrases speaks about it: “Man’s greatest problem today is not to understand and exploit his physical environment, but to understand and govern his own behavior.

Death caught Frank A. Beach working and active, as it could not be otherwise, and his last days in a hospital bed were spent reading scientific literature. Finally, he died on June 15, 1988, at the age of 77.

Bibliographic references:

  • Bilbo, S.D. (2013). Frank A. Beach award: programming of neuroendocrine function by early-life experience: a critical role for the immune system. Hormones and Behavior, 63(5): 684-691.
  • Dewsbery, Donald A. (2000) “Frank A. Beach, Master Teacher”, Portraits of Pioneers in Psychology, 4: 269- 281.
  • Donald A. Dewberry (1998). Frank Ambrose Beach, 1911-1988: a biographical memory.
  • M Soto-Gamboa, F Bozinovic – Ecological and evolutionary physiology (F Bozinovic, ed.). (2003). Endocrinology and behavioral ecology: proximal mechanisms that explain behavioral patterns.