Lisp was first developed in the late 1950s at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology for research in artificial intelligence. The great power of the Lisp language makes it superior for other purposes as well, such as writing editor commands and integrated environments.
GNU Emacs Lisp is largely inspired by Maclisp, which was written at MIT in the 1960s. It is somewhat inspired by Common Lisp, which became a standard in the 1980s. However, Emacs Lisp is much simpler than Common Lisp. (The standard Emacs distribution contains an optional extensions file, cl.el, that adds many Common Lisp features to Emacs Lisp.)