Although experiments in behavioral endocrinology were conducted as early as the mid-1800's (see our Founders page), the field did not truly begin to develop until the late 1930's, when pioneers such as Frank A. Beach and William C. Young began to investigate the influence of hormones on mating behavior. These two individuals trained many of the 20th century's most influential behavioral (neuro-) endocrinologists, and by the late 1950's, they were organizing occasional meetings in California for their growing group of colleagues. Although informal and under various names, the "West Coast Sex Meetings" began to be held annually in 1965 and continued into the 1980's.
By the late 1960's, the field had grown substantially and many investigators trained in the West had moved to the central and eastern US. In order to provide an eastern equivalent of the West Coast Sex Meetings, Lynwood Clemens organized the first meeting of the Eastern Regional Conference on Reproductive Behavior (ERCRB), which held its inaugural meeting in 1969. The ERCRB meetings were the first of a series of formally organized meetings that eventually gave rise to the Society for Behavioral Neuroendocrinology. In 1978, the ERCRB became simply the CRB, and the CRB increasingly gathered a national and international attendance. However, beyond some modest programmatic changes, the CRB remained a fairly informal organization, and although the focus had broadened to include reproductive behaviors other than mating, the meetings did not yet address many other hormone-sensitive behaviors.
By the mid-1990's, there was a recognition that CRB's sole focus on reproductive behavior was too narrow and that this focus limited participation of researchers with related interests. Clearly a professional society was needed that covered more broadly what Frank Beach had called "behavioral endocrinology." Emilie Rissman spearheaded this effort, recruiting Rae Silver and Kim Wallen to develop a new society, which was initially called the Society for Behavioral Endocrinology. Emilie, Kim and Rae recruited an advisory board whose first task was to decide the final name for the society. After much, sometimes intense, debate the Society for Behavioral Endocrinology (SBE) became the Society for Behavioral Neuroendocrinology (SBN) to better reflect the neural, cellular, and molecular direction of the field. The three founders developed a set of bylaws and incorporated SBN in Virginia in 1996. Their efforts came to fruition when a transitional meeting was held for the CRB and the newly-formed SBN in Baltimore.
SBN has matured dramatically in just a few short years, and is now a major force in integrative biology and biomedical research. The organization has taken bold steps in fostering students, and has established editorial control of Hormones and Behavior. Michael Baum was the first SBN-elected Editor of Hormones and Behavior, and under his leadership this publication became the premier journal for integrative studies of behavior, achieving the highest impact factor of any behavioral journal. Current membership is over 500 (with almost 23% student members) and annual meeting attendance now exceeds 400, with attendees traveling from all parts of the globe.
For an excellent review of our history, see: Dewsbury, D.A., 2003. The conference on reproductive behavior: a history. Horm. Behav. 43, 465-473.