The past several years have seen the emergence of a standard cosmological model, in which small temperature differences in the cosmic microwave background (CMB) radiation on angular scales of the order of a degree are understood to arise from acoustic oscillations in the hot plasma of the early Universe, arising from primordial density fluctuations. Within the context of this model, recent measurements of the temperature fluctuations have led to profound conclusions about the origin, evolution and composition of the Universe. Using the measured temperature fluctuations, the theoretical framework predicts the level of polarization of the CMB with essentially no free parameters. Therefore, a measurement of the polarization is a critical test of the theory and thus of the validity of the cosmological parameters derived from the CMB measurements. Here we report the detection of polarization of the CMB with the Degree Angular Scale Interferometer (DASI). The polarization is deteced with high confidence, and its level and spatial distribution are in excellent agreement with the predictions of the standard theory.