‘I am just going outside and may be some time.’

Unless these words are followed by, ‘…but I’ll come back with Jaffa Cakes’, I wouldn’t usually pay them much attention. But when Captain Lawrence Oates reportedly uttered them on the Terra Nova Antarctic expedition on 17 March 1912, they prefaced one of the greatest acts of self-sacrifice in the history of exploration.

Oates, who was part of the four-man team that accompanied Robert Falcon Scott on the final leg of his journey to the South Pole, was born in Putney in 1880, educated at Eton and then entered the British Army in 1898. During his military career he served in South Africa, Egypt and India, was elevated to the rank of Captain and sustained a leg injury during the Boer War in 1901.

He applied to join Scott’s Antarctic expedition at the age of 30 and, being a posh young bloke who knew how to handle a horse and could contribute ₤1,000 to the kitty, he was accepted. A sixteen-man crew set off from Cape Evans base on 1 November 1911, bound for the bottomiest point of the Earth.

Scott, Oates and three other explorers reached the South Pole on 18 January 1912, only to find it already conquered by a Norwegian team led by Roald Amundsen. None of the five British men returned home; they all perished on the ice within weeks of their accomplishment.

I know it might be a bit of a stretch describing a man whose body was never recovered from the coldest continent on Earth as ‘hot’, but bear with me.

Oates was a cavalry officer with the 6th Inniskilling Dragoons. I don’t know what that means to you, darling reader, but to me it means a dapper uniform. And I have a thing for dapper uniforms.

Oates’ primary responsibility on the Scott expedition was to tend the ponies that were used to haul sledges between food depots. That’s right. Ponies liked him. And I refuse to argue with ponies.

The best bit about Oates is surely the sacrifice he made for his mates. Slowed to almost a standstill with frostbite, scurvy and exhaustion, the Captain realised he was a dangerous liability, and took his final stroll through a blizzard in an effort to save the lives of his comrades. Whether or not he actually spoke his famous final words is still in doubt—Scott’s diary is the only known reference to Oates’ humble sentence—but who cares? Even if his last words were ‘Um, you guys? Can you feel your toes? ‘Cause I can’t feel my toes’, the fact remains that he did a Very Noble Thing.

Lawrence oats

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Here’s a ridiculously sexy movie plot I just made up:

During the dawn of the 20th century, a baby girl is born in Beijing to the tenth son of a Manchu prince. The princess is adopted by a Japanese espionage agent, who later becomes her lover, around the time that her biological father dies and his concubine commits suicide. She is sent to finish her schooling and learn martial arts in Tokyo, after which she takes on various male and female lovers.

Eventually marrying the son of an Inner Mongolian Army General for a grand total of two years, she moves to Shanghai and shacks up with a Japanese intelligence officer, and begins spying for the Japanese during the 1930s.

Once she convinces a previously abdicated Chinese emperor friend to return to China and become the new emperor of the Japanese-created puppet state of Manchukuo, she dresses up in men’s gear and forms her own counter-insurgency force of ex-criminals.

Finally, after becoming a society figure, propaganda symbol and recording artist, she’s arrested in Peking after the Second World War and executed for treason with a gunshot to the back of the head.

But HA! It’s NOT a ridiculously sexy movie plot. It’s the ridiculously sexy life of Yoshiko Kawashima, otherwise known as Aisin Gioro Xianyu, otherwise known as Jin Bihui.

Princess, spy, cross-dresser and insatiable hornbag, she was not only trouser-deep in the goings-on of Japanese espionage, she was sly, fearless and looked white hot in a pair of military breeches.

Yoshiko Kawashima

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There’s really no question about it. Michael Faraday was a nerd.

Born in 1791, he spent sixty-odd years of his life bent over experiments in physics and chemistry, trying to work out the properties of electricity, magnetism, glass, chlorine and other useful substances.

He played around with lightning, magnets, conductors, states of matter and making things explode.

He discovered bucketloads of important stuff, like benzene and electromagnetic induction and the optical properties of gold colloids and diamagnetism.

He became a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1824 – an honour reserved only for people of spectacular scientific standing and Very Nice Pants, and was appointed the first Fullerian Professor of Chemistry at the Royal Institution of Great Britain in 1833.

He made significant contributions to present-day electronics, chemistry and science education, delivering lectures to children and other not-very-sciencey people in an entertaining way.

So what’s hot about all that?

Michael Faraday taught himself. He only had a basic school education, but read mountains of books while apprenticed to a book-binder as a teenager. Handsome employed guy showing initiative: check.

Albert Einstein had a picture of Michael Faraday on the wall of his study. Imagine the father of relativity getting stuck on a particularly hairy bit of algebra and gazing up at Faraday’s head for inspiration. Pioneering physicist pin-up idol status: check.

One of Faraday’s lines of research was in liquefying gases. He helped to establish the idea that gases are the vaporous state of substances with a very low boiling point. Actual physical hotness in a scientific sense: check.

This guy made electric motors and laid the foundations for the development of modern gadgets. Home handiness and contemporary relevance: check.

Faraday’s face appeared on the English twenty-pound note in 1991. Pretty enough for national currency: check.

And if that doesn’t do it for you, I suppose it must come down to those luxurious sideburns. Phwoar.

michael faraday

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In our new series The Hot And The Dead, we’ll be wandering through the graveyards of the world to find hot dead folk for your viewing pleasure.

Lady Caroline ‘Caro’ Lamb managed to chalk up a few decent exploits before she knocked off permanently in 1828 at the still-fetching age of 42.

Far from a demure 19th-century English beauty giggling behind a home-embroidered fan during a quadrille, Caro was a proficient writer, musician, artist, satirist and literary mimic who produced a smattering of poetry and novels. Her most famous work, Glenarvon, was part Gothic romance, part social caricature and part scorned-lover manifesto; based quite obviously and indiscreetly on the married author’s smoking six-month affair with Lord Byron. When Byron, who was fairly well known for poking bits of himself into a decent cross-section of society, eventually tired of Lamb’s high-maintenance clinginess and broke it off, Caro continued to pursue him, mourn him, publicly mock him and basically turn into a Grade A stalker.

Upon their first encounter in 1812, Caro snubbed Byron, coining the phrase ‘mad, bad, and dangerous to know’ to describe him. That the poet, with all his fame, excess and come-hither ringlets continued to chase Lady Caroline despite her rebuff, was perhaps testament to her hotness.

And what of her hotness? Look at that achingly coquettish gaze. LOOK AT IT. Just like an actual lamb only not quite as fluffy and with a more expensive frock. Combined with a posh upbringing and a few strategic social connections, that kind of coy, round-eyed countenance was the Regency equivalent of throwing on a blingy tank top, climbing aboard the nearest bar table and loudly extolling the virtues of one’s lovely lady lumps. Hot.

Talented, irritating and hot.

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