Frank Ambrose Beach

April 13, 1911—June 15, 1988


FRANK A. BEACH WAS arguably the premier psychobiologist of his generation, influencing the development of psychobiology in numerous, diverse ways. Believing that learned behavior was too complex for detailed analysis, he shifted the focus of the field toward the study of instinctive, or as he preferred, species-specific behavioral patterns, such as mating and parental behavior.

A major impact was Beach's movement of the field toward increased physiological considerations, as in research on the neural and endocrine determinants of behavior. Along with William C. Young, he established the field of behavioral endocrinology. Physiological analysis can quickly become reductionist; in Beach's hands, by contrast, it was integrative. He sought to understand behavior not only with respect to the two-way relationships with neural and endocrine processes but in dynamic relation to the complex environment in which animals live. Further, Beach believed that behavior should be understood in an evolutionary framework. The function of behavior was to permit animals to adapt to complex and ever-changing environments. He sought an integrative psychobiology that would transcend these levels of analysis and focus on behavior, but it would be rooted in the study of its physiological

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