In an era when science was perceived as a male domain, Mary Somerville (1780-1872) became both the leading woman scientist of her day and an integral part of the British scientific community. Her scientific writings contributed to one of the most important cultural projects of Victorian Britain: establishing science as a distinct, integral, and unifying element of culture. By the time of her death, Somerville had achieved near-mythic status in Britain. Her works reflect both the power of science to capture imagination and the influence of cultural factors in the development of science. They provide a window into a particularly lucid and illuminated mind and into one of the most formative periods in the evolution of modern scientific culture. This retelling of Somerville's story focuses on the factors that allowed her to become an eminent scientist and argues for rethinking the story of women's participation in science.