Frank A. Beach

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Frank A. Beach
Born (1911-04-13)April 13, 1911
Emporia, Kansas
Died June 15, 1988(1988-06-15) (aged 77)
Berkeley, California
Nationality American
Fields ethology
Alma mater Antioch College
Known for founder of behavioral endocrinology, co-author of Patterns of Sexual Behavior (1951)

Frank Ambrose Beach, Jr. (April 13, 1911 – June 15, 1988) was an American ethologist, best known as co-author of the 1951 book Patterns of Sexual Behavior. He is often regarded as the founder of behavioral endocrinology, as his publications marked the beginnings of the field.[1]


Frank Ambrose Beach, Jr. was born in Emporia, Kansas, the first of three children to Frank Ambrose Beach and Bertha Robinson Beach.[2] Although he respected his father, a distinguished Professor of Music at Kansas State Teachers College (now Emporia State University), Frank Beach Jr. often rebelled against him.[2] Beach began an English major at Emporia, but was sent to Antioch College for his sophomore year.[2] Beach graduated in 1932, and, unable to find a job, accepted a fellowship in clinical psychology at Emporia. Beach completed a thesis on color vision in rats.[2] He moved to the University of Chicago, where he met behaviorist Karl Lashley,[2][3] who had perhaps the strongest influence on Beach's professional life.[2] Financial difficulties forced Beach to leave Chicago, and took a high school teaching position in Yates Center, Kansas,[2] where he married his first wife. The union was short-lived.[2]

Beach returned to the University of Chicago, and completed, under the supervision of Harvey Carr, a PhD thesis on the role the neocortex on innate maternal behavior in rats.[3] During this period, Beach married his second wife, Anna Beth Odenweller, with whom he had two children, Frank and Susan.[2][3] In 1936, Beach accepted a one-year position at Karl Lashley's Cambridge laboratory, where he continued his studies of animal sexual behavior.[3] The following year, he was employed by the American Museum of Natural History in New York City.[3] Beach was influential in advancing the study of neural and endocrinal influences on animal behavior.

In 1946, Beach accepted an academic appointment at Yale University. There his research interest became focused on the reproductive behavior of dogs which he continued for the rest of his life. A sabbatical at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford began in 1957-58. In 1958, Beach accepted a position as Professor of Psychology at the University of California, Berkeley. The research program on dogs that was initiated at Yale was expanded at Berkeley. Beach helped found the Field Station for Behavioral Research near the Berkeley campus.

Beach, along with anthropologist Clellan S. Ford, co-authored the book Patterns of Sexual Behavior (1951), considered a "classic" of its field.[4] He was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1953.[5] He also authored an edited version, Human Sexuality in Four Perspectives, in 1977.[2] Beach's second wife, Anna, died in 1971, and he thereafter married Noel Gaustad.[2][3] In the days prior to his death, Beach continued his work from a hospital bed, reading scientific literature and giving advice about a paper on reproductive behavior to be presented at an Omaha conference on June 12, 1988.[3] He died on June 15, 1988.[2][3]


Beach is remembered as a serious scholar and researcher, who believed that "increasing knowledge, in and of itself, is a justifiable way to spend your life.”[2] However, he was also known for his sense of fun,[2] and humorously coined the term "Coolidge effect" based on an old joke about U.S. President Calvin Coolidge.[2] Throughout his professional career, his greatest interests remained in the field of behaviour, remarking that “Man’s greatest problem today is not to understand and exploit his physical environment, but to understand and govern his own conduct.”[2]

At age sixty-five, Beach wrote the following autobiographical statement, which was preceded by a list of goals he wished to achieve:

Of course, I shall never accomplish all the goals just listed, but that is unimportant. What counts is to have aims, to be able to work hard toward them and to experience the satisfaction of at least believing that progress is being made. I do not want to cross the finish line of this race – not ever – but I do hope I will be able to keep running at my own pace until I drop out still moving in full stride. It’s been one hell of a good race.[3]


Beach is considered the principal founder of the field of behavioral endocrinology.[1] Donald Dewsbery, writing for the National Academy of Sciences, called Beach "arguably the premier psychobiologist of his generation, influencing the development of psychobiology in numerous, diverse ways."[6] The Society for Behavioral Neuroendocrinology has awarded the Frank A. Beach Young Investigator Award in Behavioral Neuroendocrinology annually since 1990.[7]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Society for Behavioral Neuroendocrinology (SBN) | Founders". Retrieved 2016-02-28. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p Dewsbery, Donald A. (2000) "Frank A. Beach, Master Teacher," Portraits of Pioneers in Psychology, Volume 4, p269-281
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i Glickman, Stephen E. & Zucker, Irving (1994), Proceedings, American Philosophical Society, vol. 138, No. 1, p158-164
  4. ^ George P. Murdock (1974) "Clellan Stearns Ford, 1909-1972," American Anthropologist, New Series, Vol. 76, No. 1 (Mar., 1974), pp. 83-85
  5. ^ "Book of Members, 1780-2010: Chapter B" (PDF). American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Retrieved May 28, 2011. 
  6. ^ Donald A. Dewbery (1998). "Frank Ambrose Beach, 1911—1988: A Biographical Memoir" (PDF). National Academies Press, Washington D.C. Retrieved February 29, 2016. 
  7. ^ "Frank A. Beach Award in Behavioral Neuroendocrinology" Society for Behavioral Neuroendocrinology. Retrieved on 29 February, 2016

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