In memory of Nikolay Govorun

News, 18 March 2023

On 18 March 1930, Nikolay Nikolaevich Govorun (1930 – 1989), an outstanding physicist, a mathematician, a programmer, an initiator of the creation of the JINR local information and computing network, was born.

Those who knew him recalled that this man got striking results in all areas he was involved. Personal traits of the theoretical scientist perfectly coexisted with practical features of the organizer of science. It is difficult to overestimate his role in the automation of data collection and processing of physical experiments, the creation of computing complexes, the development of various algorithms and software at JINR, as well as the formation of the Soviet school of system programming.

As a postgraduate student at the Faculty of Physics of Moscow State University, Nikolay Govorun published five scientific papers on integral equations in antenna theory. At the same time, he gained experience in programming problems of electromagnetic waves diffraction on bodies of revolution with high conductivity.

In 1958, the young scientist joined the Laboratory of Theoretical Physics. Two years later, he became the Head of the group at LTP. Moreover, in 1963, he headed the Mathematical Department of the JINR Computing Centre. In 1966, Nikolay Govorun was appointed Vice-Director of the Laboratory of Computing Techniques and Automation (the Laboratory of Information Technologies since 2000) established in the same year.

Govorun authored a number of algorithms and computer programs for processing photos from the bubble, spark, and Wilson chambers. He supervised the modernization of JINR computers to work with measuring equipment online. Under the guidance of Nikolay Govorun, specialists created a big library of programs for processing the spectrometric data obtained during high-energy physics experiments.

At the end of the 1960s, Govorun initiated the development of a translator for BESM-6 from high-level programming language Fortran. It was the first implementation of Fortran in the USSR, created in the interests of cooperation between JINR and CERN. Nikolay Govorun actively participated in the creation of all levels of the BESM-6 system software. In the 1970s, at JINR, Govorun initiated and designed a hierarchic computer complex for automation of scientific research that maintained direct connection with CERN computers for data exchange and joint solving of highly complicated problems.

Govorun organized the development of software complexes for theoretical mathematical modelling of muon catalysis. It ensured the priority of JINR in this field of theoretical physics. He also initiated the development of algorithms for parallel computations at JINR. In the middle of the 1980-s, with the spread of personal computers, JINR needed a local area network (LAN). Nikolay Govorun and his colleagues were involved in the development and organization of a global information network connecting the USSR nuclear research centres with foreign centres and using satellite and terrestrial communication channels (the KOKOS project – Space Computer Communication).

At the end of 1985, the JINET common institute terminal network (Joint Institute NETwork) was put into operation. The software of the network equipment for the JINR LAN was fully developed at LCTA. Afterwards, JINET JINR was integrated into international computer network.

Professor Govorun delivered lectures on mathematical computer software and data processing systems at MSU. For a decade, a Corresponding Member of the USSR Academy of Sciences Govorun was the Editor-in-Chief of the Programming journal. It was popular among specialists because it reflected the ideas and results of various groups of developers. Since 1967, Nikolay Govorun was the Chairman of Mathematical Department of the Council on Automation of Scientific Research at the AS USSR Presidium. The department was actively involved in educational and organizational work related to the collection of software libraries and programming complexes at numerous schools, conferences, All-Union and international exhibitions.

Contemporaries highlighted the wonderful personal traits of Nikolay Nikolaevich. He was a great leader, an enthusiastic scientist, a sociable and kind person. He warmly welcomed guests at his home.

The Supercomputer “Govorun” and an alley at the DLNP JINR‘s technical site bear the name of Nikolay Nikolaevich.