In 1953 Horace W. Babcock did publish the pioneer-article on " The Possibility of compensating atmospheric seeing" in PASP65, 229-236. (°)
In 1957 V.P. Linnik published independently " On the possibility of reducing the influence of atmospheric seeing on the image quality of stars" in Optics and Spectroscopy 3,401-402. It has been translated and republished in the ESO Proceedings No. 48 on ICO-16 Satellite Conference on Active and Adaptive Optics p 535-537. It's almost certainly the first to suggest using an artificial star for adaptive optics.
Nowadays there are two big streams of wavefront sensing : Hartmann-Shack wavedfrontsensing and Wavefront Curvature sensing.
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Works mentioned and followed by (°) are not yet in my possession and a copy of them is gratefully accepted !