Frederic was the head keeper of the menagerie at the Muséum d'Histoire Naturelle in Paris from 1804 to 1838. He named the red panda (Ailurus fulgens) in 1825. The chair of comparative physiology was created for him at the Muséum d'Histoire Naturelle in 1837. He was elected as a foreign member of the Royal Society in 1835.
He is mentioned in Charles Darwin's On the Origin of Species (Chapter VII) as having worked on animal behaviour and instinct, especially the distinction between habit and instinct. He is also mentioned in Moby-Dick (Chapter 32) as having written on the topic of whales.