Lotus was the brainchild of Colin Chapman. He began building specials in 1948 and, extended that into a kit car business, Lotus Engineering, in 1952. But it was the Lotus 7 of 1957 that elevated the company into the public consciousness, along with the amazing glass fibre Elite. The first Elan became a benchmark for how a sports car should handle and the Esprit (1976-2004) had supercar looks and (eventually) performance.
Colin Chapman died in 1982 and the comany lurched from one owner to another. GM owned Lotus from 1986 to 1993, then Italian Romano Artioli (who also purchased Bugatti) until 1996 had a shot, and since then it's been in Malaysian ownership.