Yoda’s most marked characteristic—aside, perhaps, from his olive green complexion and pointy ears—is his wisdom. As such, it seems only right that the visage of the small Jedi Master was influenced in part by one of the best-known brains in history: Albert Einstein.
Special effects artist and Star Wars makeup supervisor Stuart Freeborn didn’t have to look far to find inspiration—he modeled the character after a photo of Einstein that was hanging on an office wall, as well as his own face. Specifically, the eyes and wrinkles of the famous astrophysicist can be seen in Yoda’s final look.
Here’s the full story, as told by special effects artist Nick Maley on CineSecrets:
“...A picture of Einstein ended up on the wall behind the Yoda sculptures and the wrinkles around Einstein's eyes somehow got worked into the Yoda design. Over the course of this evolutionary process Yoda slowly changed from a comparatively spritely [sic], tall, skinny, grasshopper kind of character into the old wise spirited gnome that we all know today. The final step in that transformation was Franks [Oz, sic] insistence that the puppet should have no jaw fitted. That allowed him more freedom for expression as a puppeteer but it also meant that the skin hung loosely below the cheeks and that gave Yoda an older, rather chinless look that is quite different to the drawings Ralph [McQuarrie] did."
And there you have it, just another thing for which we have Einstein to thank. Though he’d probably be pretty delighted to know that his mark on the universe extended all the way to a galaxy far, far away.