Frank Beach


Compiled by Billye Dailey (May 1997)


Time Line

Frank Beach was an American psychologist renowned for his research contributions in comparative psychology which include studies of psychobiological brain functions, sexual behavior in mammals, and endocrinology. Believing that facts gathered from experimentation is the cornerstone of science, Beach strived to ensure that comparative psychology would remain a discipline through strict experimental research. This earned him the title of "The Conscience of Comparative Psychology " and also the respect of many researchers within the field.

Born in Emporia, Kansas on April 13, 1911, Beach was raised in the life of the academic world. His father was a distinguished professor of music at the Teachers College in Emporia. Beach attended the same college with the intention of teaching high school English upon graduation. The Great Depression hindered the job market in teaching, therefore, after receiving his BA in 1932, he continued into a master's degree in clinical psychology at the Teachers College on a $400 dollar fellowship. The existence of color vision in rats was his self generated thesis.

After completing his masters, Beach's chosen profession was still in scarce demand. Traveling to the University of Chicago, he was awarded a $400 Service Scholarship by Harvey Carr in psychology for one year. Carr, L.L. Thurnstone, and Karl Lashley exerted great influence upon Beach during this time. As a worker within Lashley's laboratory, a tremendous impact was made on the development of Beach's professional life. Lack of funds caused Beach to quit graduate school and travel to Kansas for a position teaching high school English. Deciding to return to Chicago after only one year, Beach investigated cortical control of maternal behavior in rats for his doctoral dissertation under the advisement of Carr. After completion, Beach continued research in the sexual behavior of mammals at Lashley's laboratory at Harvard. The following year brought a 10 year position as a curator in the Department of Experimental Biology of the American Museum of Natural History in New York. During this position, he founded the Department of 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.

Throughout his career, Beach greatly influenced the field of comparative psychology. He influenced many important figures in sex research. Beach has authored numerous articles in psychology and received many honors for his accomplishments. He was elected to the American Philosophical Society and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and he was awarded with the Distinguished Scientific award and the Howard Crosby Warren Medal of the Society of Experimental Psychologists.

Beach's dedication to science continued up until his death in June of 1988. He died in Berkeley of congestive heart failure. In a hospital, a week before his death, Beach was reading journal articles and working on a co-authored paper to be presented at a conference. He approached science with an enthusiasm for knowledge and new ideas that continued his entire life. Beach sums it up in his own words: Of course, I shall never accomplish all of the goals..., but that is not important. 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 still moving in full stride. It's been one hell of a good race up to this point (Dewsbury, 1989).

Beach's Major Influences

Believing that psychologists have an important obligation to research, Beach contributed major influences within the discipline and in a wide variety of topics. Behavioral endocrinology, sexual behavior, and animal behavior were his three major scientific contributions as well as his many publications on the need of a comparative studies of animal behavior.

Recognizing the potential of European ethology, Beach was the first American to integrate ethology and comparative psychology. Europeans were one of the first to popularize the study of animal behavior. Beach realized the tremendous importance of this as well as the implication it has to other species. Again and again, he stressed the need for broader comparative analysis in behaviors of both animals and man. Within his research, he provided valuable knowledge in the behaviors of rats, hamsters, guinea pigs, chinchillas, cats, dogs, alligators, Japanese quail, pouchless marsupials, and hyenas.

Beach's comparative approaches lead also to studying the relations between hormones and behavior. Behavioral endocrinology was thus developed to establish that behavior is decreasingly dependent on hormones and increasingly affected by experience. Along with W.C. Young, Beach helped co-found this discipline. The journal, Hormones and Behavior, was founded by Beach, Whalen, and Davidson to establish the field of behavioral endocrinology and provide a reservoir of important research within this field.

Beach was committed to the scientific study of sexual behavior. He worked with and influenced many influential sex researchers such as Kinsey, Gebhard, Pomeroy, Masters, and Johnson. In Patterns of Sexual Behavior (1951), Beach, along with Ford, investigated species differences in the reproductive activities of mammals through the cultural variation in human reproduction. This became important in establishing that sexual behavior was a topic researchers could write about. While at Berkeley, Beach furthered his dog research begun previously at Yale. He researched the activational effects of androgens on the sociosexual behavior of dogs and published numerous articles on the research he found. "Locks and Beagles" was one of his most famous articles written on this topic. Leading the way in analyzing the importance of female sexual behavior, Beach helped destroy the former belief that females were passive in sexual interactions. Beach (1976) coined the term proceptivity to refer to the females strong sexual appetites.

Catchy titles in articles or coined terms made people much more aware of Beach's work. "The Snark Was a Boojum" (Beach, 1950), "The Descent of Instinct" (Beach, 1955), "Angry Mosquitoes" (Beach, 1945), and "Locks and Beagles" (Beach, 1969) were all humorous titles that stood out among many of the usual dull titles that state explicitly what was to be discussed. Beach used an element of suspense as to what the articles were to be about, and he was well known for using these tactics. Many words were coined to by Beach, for example, ramstergig (a hypothetical blend between rats, hamsters, and guinea pigs), thunch (theory-hunch), neurophilia, and Humptydumptyism.

Beach contributed to science in many ways. Not only did he do research and work continuously on articles, but he also served on many scientific organizations. He has greatly influenced the comparative psychology with his research as well as through the contributions of his students, colleagues, and co-researchers. Frank Beach led a remarkable career and he has provided a lasting, unique perspective.

Time Line of Beach's Life

1911 Born in Emporia, Kansas
1932 Completed BA, Emporia Teachers College
1936 Completed doctoral dissertation at University of Chicago on cortical control of maternal behavior in rats
1937 Worked in research at Lashley's laboratory
1938-48 Position in Department of Experimental Biology of the American Museum of Natural History in New York City
1945 Published Angry Mosquitoes
1946 Appointed to position at Yale University
1949 Elected to National Academy of Sciences
1950 Awarded Sterling Professor of Psychology & Published The Snark Was a Boojum
1951 Published Patterns of Sexual Behavior with C.S. Ford & became Member of Psychobiology panel of National Science Foundation
1952 William James Lecturer in Psychology at Harvard & Jake Gimbel Lecturer at University of California Medical School
1954 Jake Gimbel Lecturer at University of California, Berkeley
1956 Gregory Menas Lecturer at the New York University School
1957-58 Sabbatical at Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences
1958 Joined faculty at the University of California, Berkeley
1963 Founded Field Station for Research in Animal Behavior near Berkeley campus
1966 Advised William Masters and Virginia Johnson in the publication of Human Sexual Responses
1969 Published Locks and Beagles
1970 Beach, Whalen, and Davidison founded the Journal of Hormones and Behavior
1976 Coined the term "proceptivity" for female rats
1977 Served as President of the International Academy of Sex Research
1978 Became Professor Emeritus at Berkeley
1984 Published Let's Bury the Snark
1985 American Psychological Foundations Award for Distinguished Teaching in Biopsychology
1988 Died June 15


Beach, F.A. (1945). Angry Mosquitoes. Science, 101,610-611.
Beach, F.A. (1950). The snark was a boojum. American Psychologist, 5, 115-124.
Beach, F.A. (1955). The descent of instinct. Psychological Review, 62,401-410.
Beach, F.A. (1969). Locks and beagles. American Psychologist, 24, 971-989.
Beach F.A. (1976). Sexual attractivity, proceptivity, and receptivity in female mammals. Hormones and Behavior, 7, 105-138.
Beach, F.A. (1984). Let's bury the snark. Comparative Psychology Newsletter, 4, 1-3.
Beach, F.A., and Jaynes, J. (1954). Effects of early experience upon the behavior of animals. Psychological Bulletin, 51, 239-263.
Dewsbury, Donald A. (1989). Frank Ambrose Beach: 1911-1988. American Journal of Psychology, 102, 3, 414-420.
Ford, C.S. & Beach, F.A. (1951). Patterns of sexual behavior. New York: Harper.
Glickman, Stephen E. & Zucker, Irving. (1989). Frank A. Beach (1911-1988). American Psychologist, 44, 9, 1234-1235.

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