The two people credited and acknowledged with the creation of NLP are Richard Bandler and John Grinder. The core attitude of NLP as proposed by Richard Bandler is 'to look at life as a rare and unprecedented opportunity to learn with a sense of curiosity and adventure'.
With this attitude Bandler and Grinder began to model the best that they could find in the world of therapy. They were:
Fritz Pearls - Gestalt therapist
Virginia Satir - family therapist
Milton Erickson - hypnotherapist
They modelled many others as well, but these three were known be to be among the best in their fields. It was from these three that much of the initial NLP work was created - perhaps most importantly and significantly the 'meta-model' - a methodological use of language to both elicit information and expand the subject’s experience of reality. It was from the use of the meta-model that most of what we have in NLP came about.
Shortly after Bandler and Grinder got together they were joined by others who had varying degrees of input into NLP creation and direction. They include Robert Dilts, Judith Delozier and Leslie Cameron-Bandler.
The originators and co-developers went on to model the best minds in business, sport and psychology.
NLP hit the mass market with Tony Robbins in the late 80's.