Development of an ‘expert system’ for elucidation of structures of acyclic organic compounds is described. An expert system is a computer program that embodies some of the heuristic problem-solving knowledge of human experts so that it can effectively be used as an aid to decision making. The expert system described in this paper is intended to assist a chemist in arriving at plausible structures, the input data being the mass spectrum, molecular formula and presence (if known) of functional groups. The program generates chemically possible structures for the given molecular formula and can use, where available, the constraints imposed by the mass spectrum of the compound and by any known functional groups. The program makes use of a new algorithm for obtaining a canonical representation of structures and a new heuristic for incorporating constrains of the mass spectrum. This work constitutes a case study of the application of artificial intelligence techniques in chemistry and the material presented highlights this motivation.